Scouting for Candy

It goes without saying that the preparation for their trip to England taught the Boy Scouts many valuable lessons about money and finances.

No other Scout Troop from this area or, heck, even the entire Western United States, had ever undertaken this kind of journey.

The boys were really breaking new ground.

Raising over $21,000 in just over two years opened their eyes to the kind of time and effort involved with fundraising.

At the start, I think they thought it was going to be easy. To be honest, so did I.

With no interest from any of our local media, and little involvement from Scout executives, it was left to word-of-mouth, Facebook, friends, and family to help spread the news that the boys of Troop 3 were looking for opportunities to work hard.

They raked yards, cleaned up trash, washed cars, shoveled snow, parked cars, set up tables and chairs, weeded flower beds, loaded trucks, and, of course, sold popcorn, honey, and BBQ rub.

Just to name a few.

One thing I had always considered, but we never did, was to sell candy. See’s has a good fundraising program for large groups.

We were hesitant to try it because of the high price of many of the See’s products. It just didn’t look reasonable for us.

I kept coming back to the See’s brochure when we needed more ideas for fundraising, but I continued to dismiss it right to the end because I just couldn’t see someone paying more than $10 for a box of candy.

Imagine how I felt when we walked into Harrod’s, in London, and spotted this monstrosity:

Harrod's Candy

That, right there, is a $2,000 box of candy.

If only I’d known about this two years ago!

We would have had to sell just 15 of them to finance our entire trip!

Walking With Teenagers

Last I left the story of the Boy Scouts from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who walked across England, they were sightseeing in London.

And growing restless to get on with their epic 84-mile hike.

We were soon on a train bound for the northern city of Newcastle, where the trailhead to the Hadrian’s National Wall Path lay just five miles out of the city, in a little suburb named Wallsend (Sting’s hometown!).

With backpacks stuffed full of London souvenirs (that might’ve just been me), the group embarked on a week-long journey from sea to shining sea.

That would be North Sea to Irish Sea.

The last time I made this trip, I was among adults walking to raise money for charity.

This time I was with a bunch of teenagers.

There were similarities.

For instance, we had fast walkers. Even though Rule #1 was to walk at the pace of the slowest walker, we still had boys 100 yards or more ahead, and they’d have to hear us yelling for them to “Slow down!” and “Wait up!”

The first of the ups and downs.

On Day 2, one boy got so far ahead that we lost him. Temporarily, of course.

We stunk. That couldn’t really be helped. Bunk barns, cow pastures, and lack of laundry facilities were par for the course.

Although, to be honest, teenagers smell worse.

We had injuries. Blisters, sprains, pulled muscles, bruised toenails. And we had boys who stepped up to help when one of the group was down.

More of the ups and downs.

There were also differences from my experience of four years ago.

Teenagers aren’t able to maintain a brave face for very long. When they’re tired and grumpy, it bubbles quickly up to the surface. And brings them crashing down.

I missed the overall jolliness of the group I walked with in 2010.

There were times along the trail when the boys would grow way too quiet, and I knew they were in their teen moods. But, since there were no doors to slam or video games to play, and they knew we had to just keep walking to our next destination, all they could do was turn up their music, hide behind their earbuds and sunglasses, and keep their head down.

This is how teenagers are. Up and down, up and down.

But mostly up.

At the end of each day, when the backpacks were thrown down, boots traded for flip-flops, candy and soda procured, and dinner and a bed were in sight, the boys wore happy smiles and spoke in playful tones. Their moods lifted to new heights as they experienced new towns and people and accommodations at the end of each day.

Walking across England with teenagers was more manageable than I expected. The highs were absolutely exhilarating, while the lows were brief blips of discomfort quickly forgotten.

Not quite the thrill ride roller coaster.

Actually, more like the carnival fun house. Hilarious and strange and claustrophobic, and in desperate need of a good cleaning.

I’d do it again, or at least I’d point someone in the right direction.

Here are just a few photos from our walk. I’ll post more in a few days.

Tynemouth BeachTynemouth Beach, on the North Sea, before the start of the hike

Hadrian's WallHiking up a long hill, with Hadrian’s Wall at our side.

Hiking down to Milecastle Nick

Climbing the stile with style

Hadrian's WallA bit of rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Much.

Hadrian's Wall CowVisiting with the locals, along Hadrian’s Wall.

Hadrian's Wall HandsHolding hands was one way to get the fast walkers to stay with the group.

ChollerfordThey’re smiling because they’re near the end of an 18-mile day.

How To Protect Your Photos

5 Steps to Protecting Your Photos

While the Internet is abuzz over who stole Jennifer Lawrence’s private online photos, now would be a good time for us all to think about how we can best protect our own pictures.

No, not from hackers. Because nobody wants to see YOU naked.

No, you need to protect your photos from oblivion.

I was visiting a computer repair shop to hear the suspected diagnosis on my desktop PC.

“Your hard drive crashed. Hope you backed it up.”

A brief moment of panic before I remembered that, yes, in fact, I did have a complete backup of my data files.

The computer guy told me, “You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had to break that news to people and then watch them break down crying because they just lost five years of baby pictures.”

Sometimes you can recover some of that crashed data, but most of the time it’s gone.

Forever.

So, my photo backup paranoia only grew deeper, and I developed these simple steps to protecting your photos from oblivion.

STEP ONE

First of all, get them off your camera. I mean, really, it’s not a storage device. If the memory card in your camera has 15,000 pictures on it, and you’ve never uploaded them to any other device, then you’re really making a gamble.

Okay, once the photo files are uploaded to your computer, you’ve made the first step on the road to full photo protection.

But you’re not there yet.

STEP TWO

So, now you have 15,000 pictures on the hard drive of your laptop. This is great. At least here you can enjoy them. You can crop, zoom, filter, and retouch them. You can post them to Facebook or Instagram or wherever the kids are socializing these days.

But you still have reason to worry.

Your next step is to back them up onto an external hard drive. Or a thumb drive.

I recommend doing both.

STEP THREE

Carry that external drive to every other computer in your house, plug it in, and upload your photos to each one.

Now you have multiple back-ups in your house.

STEP FOUR

Ah, but there’s the problem. What happens if your house burns down?

Horrible to think about, but you can always rebuild your house. You can’t re-take your precious photos.

So, your fourth step is to back-up your pictures to online storage.

Flickr is a great free site for your online photos. They give you 1TB of storage, which is plenty for most people. Flickr will store your pictures at full resolution, and you have quick and easy access to view and download them through both your computer and your smartphone.

Go ahead and begin the process of uploading those 15,000 files to Flickr. It’s going to take awhile, but be patient. It took me about two weeks, at just a few hours each night, to transfer that amount over.

If you’re well and truly paranoid about your photos, like I am, you’ll want to repeat this whole thing with another online storage site.

Because, while Flickr is awesome, I’m not so sure about their parent company, Yahoo! What if Marissa Meyer is visiting the Flickr offices and touches something she’s not supposed to, and BOOM, there go all your precious memories!

So, to continue with this fourth step, upload your photos AGAIN to another online storage site.

I recommend Dropbox.

Dropbox is going to cost you $9.99 per month for 1TB of storage. Or, you can pay $99 all at once for the full year and save $20.

Unlike Flickr, you can store anything at Dropbox. Documents, spreadsheets, photos, music, long videos (Flickr has a 3-minute limit on those). Dropbox installation is a breeze on your computer, where it sets up a folder that you simply drop files into. Then, with no more effort from you, everything backs up to the Dropbox cloud AND syncs with any other devices on which you have it installed.

Don’t like Dropbox? Try Google Storage. Same price, same type of set-up. Not quite as user friendly as Dropbox, but that might just be me.

There are other online storage solutions, but these are the ones I’ve tried. Flickr, Dropbox, and Google.

Pick two.

Pick three if you really want to, but that might just be crazy.

Either way, you are ALMOST done with the steps to fully protecting your photos. Soon you will be able to rest easy at night, knowing that all those pictures you took of your food and your cats and yourself in the bathroom mirror will be around for all of eternity.

There’s just one last step.

STEP FIVE

Remember that external hard drive, or thumb drive, from Step Two?

Go get another one.

Make a copy of the first one.

Put it in a box, seal it up, put your name on it, and then store it somewhere away from your house. Preferably at the home of a trusted friend or relative.

Or even a safety deposit box at the bank!

This is, if you are truly paranoid about protecting your photos, the final step of making sure you don’t someday find yourself standing at the counter of the computer repair shop bawling your eyes out because you just found out that a lifetime of digital memories has been relegated to oblivion.

Okay, so maybe you’re not as paranoid as me.

The trick to protecting your photos doesn’t have to be quite so complicated. If you do at least two of the above steps, you should be okay. Three steps, and I think your pictures will be fine.

Do all five, and I salute you! Your pictures will survive until the end of time.

Scouting London

Continuing the story of the big adventure to England that my son’s Scout Troop embarked on this summer.

Before they hit the trail, a few days of sightseeing were planned for London.

Most of these boys are from small towns and rural areas. They aren’t brimming with experience of dealing with the big city, especially not one of the largest in the world.

The traffic, the Tube, the people, it can all be so chaotic.

But, being Scouts, they were prepared. They dealt with it, even reveled in it. I think a few of them could see themselves living in a place like London.

We walked for miles. Rode the Tube for miles. Rented bikes. Took the train. And a boat.

Even got lost for a time.

In other words, these boys really moved through London.

Here’s a little bit of what they saw:

Meeting a Beefeater at the Tower of London

"If you're walking across England, you'll want to go this way."

It's a long way down from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral

They've been known to bite!

Admiring the tapestries at Hampton Court Palace

Household Cavalry

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Exploring the Thames on a rocket boat.

Queen Victoria, Empress of India

Harrod's Confectionary, Home of the $5000 box of chocolates

The Shard, Europe's tallest building

Westminster Abbey

Ancient Assyrian frieze at the British Museum

A sleepy guard

Bangers 'n' Mash

The Victoria Memorial, outside Buckingham Palace

Chilling on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral

The Baden-Powell House at night

Lake Life

When you live near one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, you want to spend as much time at it as possible.

This is what we try to do all summer.

We look at it, swim in it, walk next to it, boat on it, take pictures of it, and brag a lot about it.

It will still be there in the winter, it’s just not as much fun.