Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fowl Play

A Thanksgiving parable

Every year around this time we start looking forward to the holiday season;

Family, food, and great craft beer…
Err, I added the craft beer part but then I’m sure the Native Americans & settlers had their own elixirs in their time of thanks as well, but I digress.
I was ultra-excited about the prospect of a four day holiday break which included time spent with the family, the aforementioned food, and a forecast of absolutely gorgeous fall weather.
What could be better?
Then it happened… *sniffle*…*cough*…*sniffle*…
And on the day before the Thanksgiving festivities I found myself at Patient First mingling with dozens of sickly folks.
For 3 Hours…
When it was all said and done I had 3 new prescriptions and was laid out in the bed until turkey time arrived.

But Murphy’s Law wasn’t done shaking his bare ass at our family holiday just yet…
This may sound exaggerated, but Thursday’s kitchen scene went something like this;
The Kitchen Aid mixer was a gift, an appliance of considerable stature and one in which Ash uses with great fervor to concoct culinary delights.
So you can imagine my dismay as Ash quipped that “it had stopped working” just as the motor began to make a “clackity” sound and refused to mix her homemade potato rolls.
As my compromised immune system tried to process this impending food folly another kitchen calamity began to unfold as the sink which houses the “insinkerator” waste disposal began to back up with a gurgling sound.
I took immediate action and flipped the switch to pulverize the food bits I had assumed were creating the back-up.
The disposal jumped to life spitting water out of the sink like one of those crazy red neck jet boats.
“Is it supposed to do that”? I said aloud knowing damn good and well that it wasn’t.
Within seconds I began to feel the sickening surge of water splashing onto my feet from under the counter.
What the hell?
“Ash… what did you put down the disposal”?

“Oh, nothing”….
“Oh, just some potato peels”
“Damn it women!!!”
Within minutes I was soaking wet and under the sink unscrewing plumbing work to locate what will forever be known as the “Thanksgiving day potato plug”.

Potato Plug Aftermath
Once the 6 inch potato plug was removed the water flowed freely and we were back in business.
That was the extent of my kitchen contributions.
Ash would carry the weight of hosting the feast at our home, but after several years of marriage she has developed broad shoulders and is a master of her cooking domain.

21 Pounds of Turkey deliciousness
With help from every member of the attending Thanksgiving family, she aced the dinner without back-up from her dude, (sans the plumbing) who was walking around dazed with cotton balls in his ears.

While I will admit that there are advantages to an ear infection that limits your ability to hear at family functions, it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation when everyone sounds like the grown- ups in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
And with food being the center piece of this particular holiday gathering, you can imagine my disappointment of having little to no sense of taste or smell.
Looks like those craft brews would have to wait…or maybe just one.
Thanksgiving was exactly as it should be, spent with family and giving thanks.

In the mist of the swirl of Thanksgiving preparation Ash had also found time to plot a backpacking trip to Shenandoah National Forest.
We would leave Friday morning, and return late Saturday, and we were both really excited about getting back into the woods.
But this was not to be as I am still fighting a major sinus infection as I type, with my equilibrium being a bit catawampus.
Ash never complained, not a word, she was content to hang out at home, and take care of her infirmed Boo.
And as I still struggle with losing a perfect weekend, she continues to counter with “let it go, there will be other weekends".
Sunday morning, the sun is out, it’s beautiful in the country, and I have spent quality time with my wife & family…
Being sick sucks, but there are always worse ills to be had, being thankful is what matters in both sickness & in health. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Salomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boots

First Look;

I have been in the market for a new backpacking boot for a while. 

I currently wear my LOWA Tibet GTX boots on our backpacking excursions & they are phenomenal, but they are also the quintessential heavy load bearing full leather upper backpacking boot. They are no-nonsense task specific boots and are quite heavy to don for a day hike or a trip to the market. 

Prior to the LOWAS I had a pair of Asolo Fugitive GTX’s when we first started backpacking and I had no complaints about those either, they were great boots.  

An unfortunate lack of knowledge at the time saw me shrink my Asolos by a back country campfire and I have wanted a similar weight/style backpacking/hiking boot ever since. 

Earlier in 2011 I purchased a pair of Solomon XA Pro 3D Ultras for trail running after an extended hiatus from the company’s shoes.  

For years after owning an original pair of the Solomon XA Comp trail runners I found that the arch support on their shoes were too defined, and while I loved the foot wear, the arch support made it impossible for me to wear the shoes.  

During the rehab for my ankle surgery the Physical Therapist also determined that my arch had fallen, he devised a strengthening regimen that would ultimately allow me to “re-discover” Solomon’s line of shoes. 

Since that time the XA Pros have been on par with my INOV-8s as my favorite pair of shoes.

Because of the incredibly comfortable fit of their trail runners I started exploring Solomon’s line of hiking/backpacking boots.  

My requirements were as follows;

 -Light Weight

-Good ankle support

- Low Profile (read subdued colors without reflective material)

-Waterproof upper

-A tacky, softer sole than my Asolos 

The Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots fit the profile and when I found the boots at REI in an olive color I was sold. (I haven’t seen these boots in this color combination anywhere else).

The boots seem to be well made with an attention to details and no identifiable defects in the workmanship. 
They have the easily identifiable Salomon toe cap with the raised rubber lip, a feature that took some getting used to with the trail runners. 

The boots lace up with traditional laces as opposed to the snazzy Salomon “quicklace” system found on their XA-Pros, which may be a selling point for some.
I haven’t had them long enough to make an absolute decision on their longevity, but in a matter of 2 weeks time I have worn them for extended periods outdoors in multiple positions and on short runs with 2 days seeing significant rainfall in terrain of  mostly grass and dirt .

So far the Quest 4Ds have been amazing with zero hotspots, great traction, and light wear- ability.

I plan to revisit them on a later post to review their overall durability with an overnight backpacking trip in the works soon.  
Solomon Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boots 
Olive/ Dark Olive/Black
$220.00 at

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I try to take the camera with me as much as possible. 

That being said, my rides, runs and physically oriented activities are just that; a way to stay in shape as a way to beat age off with a stick, and as a way for me to release any pent up anger, anxiety, or other rogue emotion that may surface during the course of a week. 

So when I ride, as with anyone who rides or runs, I develop a flow which I have spoken about in past posts.  

This “flow” is almost indefinable but can be described as a feeling of everything making sense, working together, and being in sync.

A camera can capture amazing things, and anyone who wanders through the woods knows the incredible sights that you can stumble upon.

As such these two disciplines collide because when you’re in that sweet spot, that moment of physical exertion that washes away the day it is quite difficult to stop and take a picture. 

So when I have a “Wow” moment on the trail I’m conflicted with being in that moment, or trying to capture it on film, which is a large part if not the entire point of this blog and more importantly the memories that drive it.

So the struggle continues, while in the meantime the leaves change color, the sky grows darker more quickly, and the air develops a certain “nip” that you can only experience 

in the moment…

Caught in a moment of twilight on the trail 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saves the Day…

After spending the afternoon with thousands of like minded folks at the “Urbana Oyster Festival” I realized that sometimes the only positive affirmation I need is for me and Ash to step out of our front door and into the night air, a glass of red wine in hand, surrounded by the wildness of a cold country night as it echoes under a brilliant sky.  

Happiness in fact resides there.   

So is it any wonder that during these times of “clarity” one tends to think "deep" thoughts?

The backdrop of this weekend set the stage.
So where does all of the daylight that’s been saved go? 

Is there a daylight savings repository?  

Can I use my daylight savings to purchase hours against the darkness?  

Does darkness preclude fitness?  

Why is darkness so entwined with fear? 

Is it for the same reasons that people are convinced that there is a “bogyman” that resides in the backcountry? 

The backcountry bogyman… 

Yes, I am quite aware that guys like me don’t invent things like light bulbs…

Gearing up for the season of the glow worm, cold starts and dark finishes, like a strong Imperial Stout…



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Osprey “Viper 10” hydration pack-Gear Test & Review

I am a rabid fan of Osprey packs as their Aether 70 has become my tried & true backpacking pack.

It was because of this fact that I chose Osprey’s mountain bike geared “Viper 10” over other comparable packs in the same class.

The Osprey Viper was a replacement pack for a well worn Camelbak “Mule” that I have had for years and was in desperate need of replacement.
The Viper 10 comes well appointed for a smaller pack with multiple tool specific pockets, and the obligatory key keeper.
Inside with view of pockets
Osprey also incorporated a “helmet clip” where the rider can secure their helmet to the pack, a feature that I have as of yet found a reason to use.
The shoulder straps (which seem a bit narrow to me) were well thought out with an added pocket for gels or an MP-3 player.
The Viper comes with a slender stomach strap as well.
Osprey incorporated a small magnet in the bite valve for the hydration bladder which attaches to another magnet located on the pack’s chest strap, this idea works really well when I secure the valve one handed while riding.  
Bite valve & chest strap with magnets
The Viper-10 comes with a 100 oz Nalgene brand reservoir that is contour molded to the wearer’s back.

The reservoir is both easy to fill, and very well made, I would say it’s one of the most thoughtfully designed hydration bladders I have used.
The Nalgene bladder slides into the back of the Viper almost effortlessly due to a Velcro style tab on the back of the pack, with ample opening room for the bladder.
That being said, the tab is positioned in such a way that its rubs my back no matter how I secure the straps or redistribute the pack weight.
This “hot spot” doesn’t make the pack un-wearable, but its irritating rub is enough to annoy even on short jaunts.
The Offending Velcro-like tab
Again I love Osprey packs, but you cannot have a hot spot in such a critical area, and I have yet to figure out a way to defeat how uncomfortable it can be.
Another minor gripe is that the stitching at one end of the carry loop has pulled out, an uncharacteristic flaw from a company that typically makes bomb proof packs.   

With the exception of the listed shortcomings, the Osprey Viper-10 is a well balanced pack which has proven to be the perfect size for accommodating the necessary gear for single day trail outings from runs to rides, (multi day treks would probably warrant a larger pack for supplies).
I am able to get a Garmin GPS, bike pump, tube, wallet, phone, and Canon G-11 Camera stuffed into the Viper-10 with little coaxing.
I am having a hard time getting past the issue with the Velcro style tab that rubs me the wrong way, and as such I’m trying several different options to make sure that it’s something that I’m not doing wrong when I don the pack.

Osprey backs all of their gear with a 100% “All Mighty guarantee which I may entertain if I can’t resolve the tab issue on my own.