Hastings teacher shares his love for the outdoors, adventure
By Journalism I student Bhada Han, ’22
Letting his feet and his eyes be his guide up the mountain, Kevin Lloyd hikes his way through nature, accompanied by his dogs. There are no other people around, just the whispers of the wind and the chatty chirping of critters he hears, a white sound for ears to zone into. He breathes in the brisk, loamy air and it would be like a cooling fizz to his throat, refreshing his lungs and chilling his skin. For him, the forest was more than just brown and green. Looking around, he could see sprinkles of yellow touch-me-nots and blue harebells, and other scarlet and pink wildflowers glowing through the trail. Some he could recognize, some yet to be learned.
The white sun peeks through the curtain of trees above him, and faint footsteps are made into the flat rock and soil. He is close to the peak of the mountain range.
Lloyd, a teacher at Hastings Middle School and the coach for the Hastings wrestling team, spends much of his free time enjoying what Ohio has to offer. But during the summer he packs up and heads out for adventure, exploring wherever the trail takes him and his dogs. Road trips without a specific destination have been a constant in his life since his early 20s, and this passion has stayed with him well into his late 30s.
Q: What is travelling to you?
Lloyd: Travelling to me is getting out of my comfort zone in nature. Like travelling somewhere to Pennsylvania or somewhere close to me is not travelling. To me, I need to be far enough from Ohio that people can’t come help me. That’s travelling.
Q: What different places have you travelled?
Lloyd: Pretty much the entire United States. There are 6 states I have not been to. Those states are Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Vermont. I missed Vermont. I even lived in Rhode Island and I missed Vermont.
Q: Are you planning on going to them?
Lloyd: Oh yeah, for sure. Vermont there’s a trail called the ‘long trail’ and it goes from Southern Vermont all the way north to the Canadian border. It takes about 40-45 days to hike straight through. That is on my to-do list. Down in the South I have very less of a desire just because it’s hot and humid, and a lot of bugs. I don’t mind bugs, but there’s a lot of them down there. And then Hawaii for sure. Not like resort beaches, I’m not like a resort beach guy so I’m like up in the mountains, camping in the woods on the side of a volcano, kind of thing. But for sure, I’ll make it to Hawaii.
Q: From all your trips you have taken so far, which one would you say is the best or the most interesting?
Lloyd: Man, so if we go all the way back to I’m gonna say 2003 or 4, me and Mrs. Lloyd went to Alaska. So we flew into Alaska, rented a car, and drove around Alaska for 3 weeks. With no idea what we were doing. So we were in the middle of the wilderness, and we landed in Anchorage which was in the middle of the state and drove all the way south to the coast back up to Anchorage and all the way East to the Canadian border. There is this road that is less than a dirt road, like worse road. And it’s like 10, 12, 13 miles long. And you have to get to that to get to a parking spot [which was a] dirt patch, then there was this giant river which there were no bridge over and you could only walk. And so you have to leave your car to get to the other side of the mountain and you have to walk. Well, we were so inexperienced that I get out of the car and I have this giant black suitcase luggage with the handle in the wilderness, pulling this luggage on wheels. You look around and everyone got backpacks and eddie bauer and all the outdoor stuff. Well not for us. We had this black luggage that we were wheeling on a gravel road, ‘de-de-de-de-de-de-de’ gravel road and it made me realize that I really didn’t know what I was doing. And so that is one trip I would never forget. And then there was probably 10 years before we took another road trip. So I call the road trip to Alaska ‘road trip 0’ and the first road trip it was like 9 days, next year it was 27 days, and then 30-some days, and then 45 days, and then last summer I did 53 days. 4600 miles all across the country.
Q: So if you were to describe travelling, would it be something more serious like a passion or more of a hobby?
Lloyd: Passion is probably a good way to say it. Uhhh, people ask me like, “Do you go on vacation” or like “how was your trip?” and I understand what people mean, but it’s not how I feel. I feel that it’s just how I live my life. I have school part of the year and I have my living out in the middle of the wilderness part of the year, so it’s not a travel. It’s not a vacation. Well, I guess it’s a travel, but it’s not a vacation for me. Literally I’m just living everyday. It’s like whatever you do at home I do it but I’m in the middle of the woods in Montana and then Wyoming and then South Dakota and then North Dakota then Idaho, and I just do it differently than other people. Because I need very little to live on, so I love being everywhere and living and even if each day is the same, and even if my routine is the same, I’m able to change the mountain range that’s around me, right? But in Ohio, you don’t get to do that.”
Q: So, you said that the documentary that you watched was the inspiration to travel, right? In your childhood or your teenagehood were you as much of a person that travels as you are now?
Lloyd: When people say ‘travel’, ‘travelling the world’ is something people would usually say. And that has never crossed my mind. I didn’t use to sit there and dream of going places. When I was a kid I would maybe went on a vacation once every other year for like a week. But we didn’t really camp, we didn’t really do that stuff. So I guess it wasn’t really on my radar. I would fish a lot. Definitely hike a lot. That was my sort of my outdoor release. But my parents weren’t really travellers, (?booking up a email/looking up a hill/boating?), that stuff. So, that passion something that I developed in college, with my (?outside left management?) major. I was always out. I was always travelling. Just outdoors in my work kind of spurred me on to do it when I didn’t have the work. So it was more fun.
Q: There’s going to be people that find traveling out in the wild uncomfortable or like out of their comfort zone. What kind of advice would you give to those kinds of people?
Lloyd: I would say always, always know where your water’s coming from. Water’s the biggest. Especially when I travel with dogs. Finding water and making sure you have water because I camp in a lot of places where there’s no water supply. It’s not like you go turn around a faucet. If you go to any state park and camp there, you’re gonna have water. But the places I go that’s not like that. My biggest thing is to make sure I have water. I water and dog food, I can go anywhere. Because I can eat very little and live on very little but I need water and food for my dogs. If they’re taken care of then I know I’m fine. Always make sure you have water. I’m not very good at letting people know where I’m at. But I definitely know that that’s a thing I should do, haha. Right? It’s like do as I’m saying. Sometimes when I would travel alone in my camper, I would leave a little note of where I’m going. I didn’t do it every time, but at least I tried to do it so that if I was missing then somebody could break into my camper and they could see the note of where I was. So letting somebody know where you’re at, that’s for sure. This is on more of the fun side of it, I never make reservations. I never call ahead for a campsite, if I get to a place and it’s full or it’s closed, I just keep going. That is really uncomfortable for a lot of people. To not know exactly where you’re going every single day. My sister-in-law travels a lot. She’s like, “At 12:30 we’re going to do this, and then at 1:45 we have to do this and at 3:30 we have to do this,” and it’s very regimented. If that’s your thing do it. But that is not my thing. My thing is that I don’t have a plan for the next 2 weeks. Except that I know at the end of 2 weeks I wanna be out. So when you have no plans, anything could be a plan. So I just set my own daily plan as that day comes. I don’t really look out for it, and that’s the uncomfortable part of it. Even more so than being out in the wilderness with no other people, the uncomfortable part of not knowing where you’re going or where you’re gonna stay, I can definitely see that odd for some people. But it does not bother me at all.
Q: Then what the reasons why you continue to travel? Is there something that motivates you?
Lloyd: My mind is free. When I’m out there driving, I don’t worry about anything. I have somebody that housesits for me and watches my cats. So as long as my cats are taken care of, there are no other worries, right? I have nothing to worry about. Other than taking care of my dogs, on the road, by myself. …. I think my brain needs it. Like, my brain needs it to live now. But I feel pretty confident that I could lose my job and just go live out in places. Because I lived in more places for free than I paid for. [You could get] a really fancy campsite for 30 or 40 bucks a night and most of the places I go are free because they’re national forests. And you could camp anywhere in a national forest you wanted to. There’s no sign saying you can’t. So those are the places that I look for and not having people around and not having all the city noises and lights and all that allows my brain to be free. That is why I keep doing it. Otherwise, I’ll just be sitting around at home. And like, I can’t do that, right?
Q: Do you have some sort of travelling philosophy that you have? Like, something you always think of while you travel.
Lloyd: Yeah, I would say get water and get gas. This summer I got a new car and getting used to how many miles you can travel without running out of gas, that kind of thing. And this one has a much smaller gas tank and very bad gas mileage, and so paying attention to where I’m at and getting gas is one big thing. Do I care if I break down in the middle of nowhere and run out of gas? No. I don’t care. If I’m far, far away and everything stops working, like it wouldn’t bother me.
Q: That would be terrifying.
Lloyd: Ok, so let me ask you a question. Why do you think that would be terrifying?
Q: When everything breaks down, it feels like at that point I wouldn’t have a plan B, I guess. I would lose it.
Lloyd: Well, plan B would be to survive. If everything breaks down and you’re positive that you’re going to survive, would it matter or anything? Here’s my philosophy, I guess. If you get a certain distance outside of any sized town, I don’t know what that distance is. In my head, I guess I make it all-known when I’m driving. But if you get a certain distance outside of any town, you wave and say ‘hi’ to every person you pass. Because the second you pass that one guy in a truck you drove by and you waved to him, and he waves back, and immediately your car catches on fire, that’s the only guy that’s out there. Right? And I just waved to him. And I smiled. There is such a chance that his response is to help you. Whereas you ignore and you’re all in your own world, people don’t want to help you. So I may not be so super friendly at campgrounds, going around talking to people, but I always, always wave to every car going by when I get outside of the town. I’m talking in the middle of nowhere, right? Anybody that I see that is going by. Because when you’re nice, it can overcome having a big old ugly beard and people don’t want to talk to you because you look like that being nice overcomes all of that. So, rule number 1. Be nice. Good philosophy for life, too.
So, rule number 1. Be nice. Good philosophy for life, too. —Kevin Lloyd
Q: Apart from the philosophy and such, how do you usually pack for a trip? Are there specific things that you make sure to bring with you?
Lloyd: You have your list of basics, and you have your list of ‘these are really awesome to have’, and you have your list of ‘one day I may use this so do I have room to take it?’, like, how much does it weigh? Because you’ve gotta watch how much you travel with it. How big is the thing you want to take, and how often are you going to use it? A lot of more savvy travellers will make a list of ‘on this trip of 50 days I’m never going to use these items’ and the still use the rest of them and he won’t pack them the next time. I haven’t gotten that far yet b/c I don’t really care. Because I have a really small camper I tow with me, so I could really carry as much crap as I wanted. And I didn’t really like that because it makes me uncomfortable. BUt there are a couple things I really need to bring when I travel. Um, my new car is going to be sort of my camper and my vehicle, because I remodeled the whole inside and you could sleep in it and stuff… it’s got propane so that I could cook in it I could do a lot of stuff. So it’s like a mobile unit vehicle. That is one thing that I will always have with me. My dogs and my dog food will all travel with me. I don’t go to places that don’t allow dogs, they’re not right. Water containers. I always multiple water containers. Usually a 3 gallon jug and then 6 or 7 individual (?container bins?) because if one water thing breaks and that’s your only thing, you’re done. So I have multiple places to put water and store water. My stove I always have. I have a little backup stove because I have to make coffee, haha. every single morning I make coffee and I also have a handheld emergency stove. I also have a nice propane stove. Always travel with that. The places I go usually up in the mountains, 90 degrees where I came from but where I’m going to camp it’s 40 degrees at night. So, layers of clothes, layers of clothes that make sense, right? Sweatpants don’t make sense in the wild. So you don’t pack sweatpants. You pack smart wool leggings that go underneath of your jeans that wouldn’t even tear if you fall down a mountain. That’s the stuff that you need to pack. Stuff that is not going to break, name brand stuff that is not going to tear apart. So you buy one really good thing instead of ‘oh, I gotta replace it, I gotta replace it, I gotta replace it.’ So my packing is becoming more condensed with better stuff. Over the past 5 years I’ve been roadtripping all summer long. It’s a learning curve, what i’ll bring and what i’ll leave behind, but my cooler too, I would say I have a really good cooler. There was about a week and the only thing I had in my cooler was ice and I had a lot of dry goods, spaghetti, things like that, like rice and beans and things like that, meals you could cook without having to be refrigerated. So, even a cooler isn’t that important to me. So, pretty much all comes back to water. It always comes back to water, haha. If you have water, then you can get away with a lot of things.
Q: I guess something I want to ask is when you’re travelling, well, I don’t want to say religiously, but have those experiences changed your life?
Lloyd: Well, it has now sort of become part of me. That’s how I live. It’s just what it is. So, yeah, religiously is a good term. During the year I don’t really travel much. I go out and I have some property in southern Ohio that I could camp at, but I don’t really camp for like a week. I don’t go out during Spring break and camp and come back in a week. It happens in the summer and that’s my time.
Q: If you had one word to describe your travelling, what would it be and why?
Lloyd: It’s gotta be happy, right? That’s the entire goal of life, is to just be happy. And if you’re not happy, then the opposite sounds really bad. You’re either happy or you’re not. Well, not happy sounds pretty awful. and so there’s not much more happy than I get when I’m travelling, and when I’m travelling I have no one to lead me where to go and I don’t even open up my phone somedays and I just paper map and follow a road and see where it goes, and then turn and see where that road goes and turn again and see where that road goes. It’s just part of me now.
The sun slowly unveils itself as the shield of trees begin to clear out. The mellow sunshine and gentle breeze welcomes him to the top of the mountain, compared to the hot and humid weather before he started this journey. He lets his dogs rest for a while where he knows they’ll be safe, and after, he does the same. Nature’s not much different at the peak, just that the viewpoint isn’t the same as it was before. He smiles, taking in the view.
He would have to come down soon, before the day goes dark again. The dark is another adventure on its own, when the stars and the moon dance in the spot of the sun. But for now, he enjoys the quiet moment in the light. For him, this is happiness.