Monday, November 20, 2017

HipStar™: The World's Best Hands-Free Travel Cart

Posted first by Igor Koshutin (Creator); re-posted by Swankie.

HipStar™ - Hands-Free Travel Cart 
(watch video -

Hey Backers, 

Today we have another great supporter - Charlene Swankie (AKA "SwankieWheels"). Charlene is living on Social Security, but she is living life to the fullest, camping full-time in a home built camper van.  Here is a bit of her back story: 

In 2005, Charlene could not walk and was shopping for a wheelchair. She then had bilateral knee replacements and two years of physical therapy. She has had to learn how to walk all over again. Soon, she began biking and running. In 2008, she was feeling so fit, got bored, bought a kayak, learned to kayak and set off to Kayak America. Charlene's goal was to kayak all 50 states, and she completed her 50th state, Hawaii, on her 70th birthday! She is now 74 and recently began looking for a new goal and decided on a solo hike of the 800-mile long Arizona National Scenic Trail (or Arizona Trail). She is working hard to prepare for that challenge. Charlene has wilderness and outdoor experience, having studied and hiked with Paul Petzoldt (founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School - NOLS) in the 1970s, but that was 40 years ago. A lot of retraining is required.

Here is what Charlene wrote: 
“I struggle to get ready for the hike due to limited finances, and also a bad shoulder. That is why HipStar™would be so important to me. I am seeking a second opinion this month on the shoulder to determine what I need to do about it and how much recovery time will be required. My goal to hike the AZ Trail felt aimless... and I kept searching for a purpose for doing it. I wanted a goal that was bigger than life itself, like kayaking all 50 states was, but I couldn't find one until I connected with HipStar™. Needless to say, I am extremely excited about this new challenge... of working with HipStar™ to make the wilderness more accessible to seniors and those mildly physically challenged!

One problem I see is, the Arizona Trail Association  doesn’t allow carts!!! Why??? They allow bikes, and horses, and unicycles? I know I could not use it on the ground through the Grand Canyon Angel Trail, but that's what is so great about your HipStar™ design, I can roll it where possible and backpack in other places. I intend to fight this with the AZ Trail Association and get permission to use HipStar™! I am going to contact the Americans With Disabilities group and get them behind me in fighting the park and trail systems, to allow these carts. ACCESSIBILITY is supposed to be provided for all and not allowing seniors to use the cart is discrimination! I might even fight them to the point of getting arrested and jailed for refusing to be forced off the trail for using the cart. And I certainly would bring in the press if that happened.”

Then we discussed this subject. I told her that I was also going to apply for special permission to use HipStar™ on restricted trails as soon as HipStar™'s design is completed, tested and first product rolls out production line. But, of course, I had no idea what stages I have to undertake. So, we agreed to join efforts and outline the plan. I am sure many of you would support us! 

Then Charlene wrote:
“I am very excited about the idea of doing battle with the Park Service and other trail associations on behalf of all Seniors who wish to continue to enjoy the outdoors. I think this could be a wonderful partnership between HipStar™ and the senior community. Let’s continue to explore the possibilities!” 

Charlene has written about her kayaking adventures and pre-visits to Arizona Trail trailheads, and also about life on the road for the past decade as a full-time vandweller. 

Charlene Swankie :

Please visit the HipStar™ website for more details.

Also support them on HipStar™.  HipStar is a collapsible cart that makes it easy to move heavy items over any type of terrain and can be used as a backpack if needed.   The HipStar™ is a project of our passion in striving to help people achieve full mobility with only the power of two legs and accomplish physical feats they never thought possible – no matter if they’re young or old. It will be an affordable way to make travels more enjoyable. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Awakening of Swankie (being all I can be… to me)

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.  If you want to eliminate the suffering of the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.  Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation. Lao-tzu


Left Monterey, CA yesterday morning arriving in Paso Robles, CA where I may stay a few days.  Away from anyone I know, away from doctors, just away. Last night I parked in a large parking lot not far from Walmart.  Used to be a Kohl’s store there but it is closed now.  One other camper in lot.  It was quiet and I rested and caught up on stuff.  Got the ladder out and cleaned off my solar panel, and took the plastic off the roof vent, as I doubt I will get any rain here and I need the air flow. I will fix the leak soon, when I get out to open spaces.

So, I woke this morning thinking, I’m nobody to no one – no one’s mother, daughter, sister, wife, lover, friend.  No one.  OK, then so I need to be all that to and for myself. 

The people I have loved the most, have hurt me the deepest.  In some cases so deep that I can not to bear to think of them or be with them anymore.  I could not be to them what I wanted to be to them or what they wanted me to be.  I CAN be all that to me and if I work hard and fast I will be able to leave the second-best legacy behind for them – the genealogy I have spent 1/2 a century working to collect.  Statistics say I have 15 years left, well, probably more as I’m a lot healthier than most living 73-year olds.

Feels good, fresh, starting over at will.  No obligations to others, just me!  Take the best care of me that I can.  Be the best I can be.  That felt hopeless before, but with the recent involuntary weight loss (caused by the removal of a hormone-secreting benign tumor in my right airway, blocking air flow to my right lung) I have hope that I can be all that – to me, for me.  Yes, it is time to be selfish and it is o.k. to be selfish.

So, I better get busy.  Today, I am working on genealogy notes laying around on my desk.  Be gone, notes, be gone.


Monday, September 25, 2017

On the road again... heading to southern Califonia (Sept. 25, 2017)

Have visited with family and friends in Washington State, Oregon and northern California. (Me with Lois Middleton)

 My granddaughter and a Gypsy Vanner.

Now heading south to take care of health issues (follow-up with lung doctor and another bronchoscopy) for myself and get back to my plans for hiking the Arizona Trail.

More blog posts will follow soon.  I hope you have not been too lonely in my absence.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Mayflower Ship to America

In three years, one month and 11 days, the replica of the Mayflower ship will set sail to America.  Three of my ancestors were on board the original: Richard Warren, James Chilton, and Mary Chilton.

Some of my relatives have expressed interest in joining the Mayflower Society to commemorate the 400th Anniversary.  I have complied the information I have on hand that may help Beaty relatives, descendants of Mary Chilton (suppose to have been the first female to step foot on Plymouth Rock), fill out their applications for membership.  I have created a .pdf file of this information and will make it available to my relatives if they send their information to me at

I have only complied the lineage from James Chilton's daughter Mary and down.  You must be a member of that line to get my file as it contains documents of more recent relatives.

You will still have some work to do.  It has taken some people two years to get approved. I, personally, am not a member and have little interesting in "joining" groups of any kind.  So you best get busy if that is your goal... to join by the 400th Anniversary.

Joining Mayflower Society:

Read more about the Mayflower Story -

Monday, June 19, 2017

Getting My Kicks on Route 66

Ha, I live on Route 66.  I just got a P.O. Box and that is the address.  HA!  I just think that is funny.  The story behind it, not so much.


I came to the mountains near Flagstaff AZ to escape the heat of lower elevations. I needed to get onto free boondocking lands where I could begin finalizing plans to hike the Arizona Trail, unloading my trailer, repairing gear, fixing stuff, etc., without having to do it in public area.  Fine, found all that, now to get a place to receive packages since people are beginning to send me gear off my Amazon Backpacking Wish List ( ).


I had been told by another vandweller that some folks got mail in Parks.  So, I went there and asked at the gas station near Exit 178 off I40, about receiving General Delivery and packages. I didn’t know there was another option at the time. One would think they would tell you if there were any restrictions as to the type of packages they could accept, USPS, UPS, FEDEX, etc., I asked, but they didn’t tell.  So I got the proper wording for the address and got on line and put it in Amazon and sent it to my SD mail service.  Two friends ordered gifts off Amazon, and immediately got word back there was a problem with the address.  (WTF???  Excuse me.)

Well, I went back in at 10am Sat. (Mail counter only open til noon on Sat.) to pick up the 2 packages, but they were not there. But UPS tracking showed they were there, received on 6/15 and signed for by the owner. I left, double-checked the one UPS tracking number, and returned insisting that the owner signed for it on 6/15 at 4:57pm. They gave me ONE package then. Turns out it was not the one I was expecting and so I checked that tracking number and learned it was delivered the same day as the first one. So where was the first one???  I went back again... they had hid them from me, not putting a notice in General Delivery folder for me, until they could talk to me and tell me NOT to have packages delivered there, not even if I rented a P.O. Box from them. O.K., they been talking to me about this for two hours now, where is my other package??? Finally, after standing and staring at the owner for 15 minutes, she casually says to the gal in the mail room, will you get her other package for her????  Only USPS packages would be accepted for me there. Well, I had discussed that with them in advance too… that ordering from Amazon, you had no way to select which carriers would be used.  One employee had even told me to call Amazon Customer Service and talk to them.  I told them there was no phone number for that… and she insisted there was.  I double-checked Amazon site and could not find one.

Altogether, I spent three hours going back and forth, getting on line, checking up on tracking numbers, only to find they could have given the packages to me at 10am and I would have been out of their hair.  So by 1:30pm, I was finished with them and on down the road to the General Store to rent a box there.

No automatic alt text available.
Parks in the Pines General Store, an old photo from their Facebook page..
Established in 1906

That stove, neat thing… it’s a replica and it is electric.

So, back (I had had breakfast there after not finding my packages at the other place – a Super Burrito-made two meals of that) at Parks in the Pines General Store (Facebook - I rented a box. This is a brand new service… they are now an official Postal Annex… and so new, that many of the boxes are still unrented and the software is still being learned by the people working there.  I got to pick my own box number… just by looking to see which were empty.  These folks, Cary and Susan Asel, are great and so very sweet.  Susan even offered to let me leave my rig there free while I am section-hiking the Arizona Trail.

They also have a Deli there and the food is really very very good (got a Hawaiian Pizza last week to take back to camp and made four meals out of it.). 


There is a sitting area inside and outside.  And you can call in to order food in advance or to go.  Great deli…. … see their menu.

I asked it I could call in weekly to see if I had mail, since it’s over seven miles one way from camp, and Cary said I could call in anytime. By this time, he is using my first name, like he had known me forever.  And they will also email me when mail comes in. What service!  I think they are capitalizing on the lack of service and bad karma given out at the other place.  I overheard men at the tables outside talking about how great it was to have this new Postal Annex run by caring people.


Oh, also, they have hitching racks outside for horses and do get riders.  I also noticed a lot of motorcycles stopping by.  This is my new home.  I’m adopting all of them.

They even filled a six gallon water jug for me, and Susan carried it to my van because she saw I was having trouble with my shoulder. I offered to pay for the water since everyone in this area has to pay to have water hauled in, but they would not take my money.  I am trilled to find such nice people here.  I plan to hob-knob a bit with the locals and see if I can’t arrange shuttle service to trailheads in the area.  I have a feeling some of these folk would love to help me with my goal to hike the entire 800 mile long Arizona Trail.

The other place gets NO MORE of my business. NOPE.


Yes, I am having my kicks on Route 66.  So if ever you are out looking for your kicks on Route 66, don’t pass up Parks in the Pines General Store (  It is a true treasure.

TEAM SWANKIE - Gifts from supporters.

This is a test.  I am trying to learn how to place Amazon ads for items I have received.  This post will be edited and expanded with more details and reviews of each product.  Consideration is being given to creating a TEAM SWANKIE t-shirt for those contributing to the cause.

Turns out it is pretty easy to do.  

 This post is a draft...

Silicone TeaKettle (Thank you Carl Palme)

Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Beach Hat - Sun Protective (Thank you Jana Norris)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reviews (Equipment, Supplies, Companies) (updated 5/30/17)

(updated 28 May 2017)

My Spot Device has gone on 50 kayaking trips and all hiking trips. 
It will make the 820 mile hike with me as well. Worn like me, but still working.

I am adding a new tab to the top of my Blog where I will be posting reviews of the equipment, supplies and companies I have done (or am doing) business with in hopes it will help others make good choices in the future.
I will be listing reviews by others as well as my own experiences.

1) Outdoor Spirit, Outdoor (avoid this company altogether)


Shoes - Hoka-Mafata - ONE-ONE - REI  (review in progress)

Power Bank made in China, sold by Outdoor Spirit.   DO NOT buy this product. 
I found what appears to be the same product on Amazon called Solar Charger, X-DRAGON Portable 10000mAh Dual USB Battery Charger Power Bank (on left) one I bought from Outdoor Spirit on right).
Here is one review I took off Amazon: 
1.0 out of 5 starsUseless...
BySeanna Quanon March 11, 2017
You have to plug it in to charge it, and then you have to place it in the sunlight to fully charge the solar part of it. Once you do that you can use it. If you plug it up on your phone and it dies, you have to complete the process all over again. I don't know how many times I thought it was charged, and it was not. Plus the clip on the back broke really fast...
I concur with Seanna and most Amazon reviews say the same thing.  You can look up Solar Charger, X-DRAGON Portable 10000mAh on Amazon and read them for yourself.
Outdoor Spirit marketed as being used for backpacking but the clip on the back of the device will not hold the product on a backpack.  It would not even stay on with my figure going gentle under the clip.  And laying in full sun all day, it did not send a charge to my cell phone.
Outdoor Spirit also has a video on their Facebook page with shows how it all works, but they do  not point out this clip on the back… and make it look like you can fasten this to your backpack securely.  You can not.
When I contacted Outdoor Spirit for a return authorization and full refund they denied me saying I to prove it was broken first.  It is NOT broken, just poorly designed and falsely advertised.  I informed the company I would not buy anything more from them and would advise all my Blog and Facebook followers to do the same.  Yet, they continue send me annoying emails trying to give me discounts on more of their junk.
Also, instructions that come with the device are pretty useless. Here they are.  You can see from the penny used for scale, how very small it is. 
Since I can not return it or get a refund, I am trying to peel the Outdoor Spirit label which covers up the entire back of the package to see what information is there.  The label is such that it is design to come apart if someone tampers with it.  I will update what I find.

 I finally got the label peeled off... and the translation is so poor (from Chinese) that I can not even understand what they were trying to say.  Do you?

And here are the specs they had covered up with their big label.   Why would you cover the specs up???

(posted 5/26/17 and updated 5/30/17)

Backpack - REI - Venus (review in progress)

 SPOT-Device (review in progress)

This is a first generation device and still works.  I wrote SPOT to ask how new one differ and got this response on 5/30/17:

Extreme tracking has all of the same features as basic tracking but allows you to vary your track rate down to every 2 1/2 minutes where as basic allows tracking intervals of 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. The device that you have in the photo is the first generation of SPOT satellite GPS Messenger. It is no longer manufactured but is still supported by SPOT. Can we help with anything else? Thanks, The SPOT Team


Arizona Trail Guide - written from South to Northbound.  I am going to suggest that a North to Southbound book be written, as some folks like me, have trouble reversing the directions.  You not only have to reverse each paragraph in each chapter, you have to reverse each sentence in each paragraph.  I get easily confused trying to do that and although I would rather hike North to South, I will have to stick to South to Northbound to keep from getting confused or lost.  I am sure I am not the only person on earth to have such a problem.

(this review is in progress 5/30/17)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Return to the Water–Kayaking the Colorado River. (edited 5/25)


Oh, my, returning to the water is a marvelous thing. I was immediately greeted by this duck couple at Willow Beach Marina. Lots of families hang out here and feed them so they expected me to also.  Willow Beach was nice and a small cove off to the right was suggested by a kayak river guide as a good place for a beginner’s  first lesson/experience. A little tame for me, be nice without a lot of people that day.


Leaving Willow Beach, I paddled upriver toward Hoover Dam. It was windy that day, and being my first day back on the water in months, I didn't want to do too much and it was already after 3pm. If it is windy, the weight of the kayak cart helps hold the front of the kayak down, otherwise, it slaps against each wave, making a very annoying sound.  My brother had described (or tried to) these giant vessels... but I could not imagine – they are motorized rafts. There were maybe a dozen of them here in the Willow Beach Harbor. No people.


Also saw some Stand Up Paddle boarders.  I like that sign. Even so, there was a boat heading out of the Harbor a little too fast. I guess south of the Harbor, they are allowed.


Lots of these little Black-Throated Grebes around, with bright red eyes.  I had never seen one before.  The photo below is one I borrowed from the internet.  Wouldn’t that be something to see – with the baby on board???



Finally caught up with Bev again in Kingman and we went exploring for water nearby where she could have her Maiden Voyage of her brand new kayak. Water was difficult to get to, but we enjoyed exploring desert life along the way. A baby barrel cactus we spotted and there were many in the area… some very large.


Made it all the way down this long road and steep hill to the water's edge at Cottonwood Cove/Arizona Cove, only to find few places to park and a lot of people taking up those few campsites. There was about a six foot drop-off to the water, and no way to safely launch boats there. We kept exploring. Before leaving, Bev Schindler Wooley, just had to dip her toes in the Colorado River. Probably about 60 degrees or so.


Oh, wait, what’s that???? Wild burrows. There was another one off camera to the left. Cool. On the right is Cottonwood Road coming off Highway 93 north of Kingman.  It was the road we had to go down to get to that water probably a drop of about 2,000 ft. in only a few minutes. Way too steep for me to take my van and trailer down and back up again. Linda May had camped down there somewhere, but I could not risk it in my rig. Bev Schindler Wooley had a little trouble getting her 4-wheel drive truck back up it, without a load. We stopped near the top for photos and went on to Topock Marsh.


Bev and I experimented around with loading both kayaks on top of her truck and finally worked it out.  Her’s is the smaller dark boat, and that rack is difficult for one person to load a kayak on alone. 

Photos by Bev Wooley.


Almost sunset and some great photo ops. Finally we made it to the Topock Marsh which is one of the larger bird watching sites found in the Lower Colorado River Valley, located south of Hoover Dam in the Colorado River Delta in Mohave County, Arizona. Still water and a great spot for Lesson #1. Bev Schindler Wooley

Two photos above by Bev Wooley.  My favorite place, Swankie at home in the Toolies.


I sure do like the water, even this murky still water. We did not see a lot of birds, but heard them. Mostly Red-Winged Blackbirds. I got a little video footage I tried to load, but FB and Blogger do not like the format. I will try to figure out how to load it here.


Lesson #2 of kayaking for Bev Schindler Wooley, launching from Willow Beach, AZ, just south of Hoover Dam. There she goes... she is off on her first real kayaking adventure. I am proud to have been a part of this experience. Wonderful to find someone who appreciates this type of activity to the same degree I do.  Along the way we saw a marker on the river for an Historic site, so we came ashore to go check it out. A short walk up the hill and we were there.

Taken from a National Park Service site:

From artifacts found along the Colorado River, Willow Beach might have been a prehistoric trading center. The Basket maker Indians from Lost City started camping at Willow Beach around 250 B.C. For a while, only the Amargosa people, from the areas to the west, came. Possibly by 750 A.D., the late Basket maker people were visiting the area again. Sea shells, steatite, and asphaltum from the Pacific Coast were traded for salt, pottery, textiles and other items from the interior. After 1150 A.D., the Shoshoneans mainly camped at Willow Beach.


Take Out Point to Hike Up to Historic Site


On top the hill we found a plaque saying this was a River Gauge Station, and the Gauge Masters house and garage. Neat.

Photos by Bev Wooley.

He had a cable that went across the river and several times a day he would have to pull himself out over the middle of the river and check the height/depth of the water.  OK, sight-seeing done, we are headed to that gap. Bev Schindler Wooley had set that as her goal for the day.


Another duck. Probably has a nesting female on shore in those bushes.  On the right was an rock overhang, maybe a cave? A whole group of kayakers on a tour had stopped in the shade there for lunch.


We rested a bit in this shade of this very tall rock wall. Bev Schindler Wooley in front of me.  Such interesting rock formations and very clear water.

Photo of me (white hat) by Bev Wooley.


While I was enjoying taking photos this motorized touring raft went zipping by... and the wake almost caught me off guard. I was not even watching Bev Schindler Wooley as she handled her first experience with a large wake... she did it like a pro. She's a natural.  We made it to the Willow Beach Gauging Station.  We were told some goats should be right past it.


The last motorized Colorado River raft was empty, but this one was packed. A guide was giving a talk and I tried to get close enough to hear, but could not make much out.  But the folks on board were having fun. No life jackets. I found that curious. Kayaking guide had told me north of Willow Beach you could get a ticket for not wearing one. Guess that doesn't apply to people who pay to be on the water.


Bev Schindler Wooley going past the Gauge Station. Yes, that is a big wall of rock. 


And there they are. At least four goats in this photo if you can find them. One is in the center on top of the big rock.


Bev Schindler Wooley was like a kid in a candy store... she said she had accomplished all she hoped to for the day. Still in search of the Big Horned Sheep though. 

Photos by Bev Wooley.

On the way back, I did a bit of kayak spelunking.


One of the goats come down to drink until a thoughtless kayaker got too close and scared it away. We are not suppose to disturb wildlife or interrupt what they are doing and where they are going. Getting a drink of water in the desert is key to survival.  On the right, we are heading back south again.


But first we had to check out Emerald Cave or Cove.  Really wasn't very big inside, I am up against the back wall, Bev Schindler Wooley was just inside a bit but I like the way the light was turning the water Emerald all around her.  Lots of photos on line taken at this same location.

Photos by Bev Wooley.


Now, I am brave, but would not walk on that overhanging walkway. Nope. Not in this lifetime.  But the walkway was fascinating and some Barrel cactus were hanging off the side of the mountain. Bev Schindler Wooley had to get a photo of them.


As we got back near our take out point, we saw this mama with six babies.

I can’t really express how very much I enjoyed being back on the water again.  I had been told the paddle from base of Hoover Dam to Willow Beach was about 12 miles and an easy paddle.  I was concerned the current might be too strong for a beginner, but now I wish we had taken that route.  Arizona Hot Springs is inside a cave, on the River, at about mile marker 3.  I would like to have gone there.  We might have to do this next week.  Here is what one blogger posted about the hot springs.

Now preparing my gear list for the Arizona Trail Hike and hope to begin it a little later this summer when I have everything all together.  Also working on the logistics of where to leave the trailer, where to park the van (hoping for maybe six key locations along the route), and where to resupply or send mail drops.  Once I have all that, I will post specifics in case anyone can help with out with gear or ground support.

Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.