Our Everyday Adventures

We are not adventurers by choice but by fate – Van Gogh

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Review: Detours Georgetown Bike Pannier

Post by:  Jake
9/16/12

On our recent bike tour in Ireland there were a few pieces of equipment that proved invaluable.  Garmin Etrex 20 with Ireland street maps.  Gore-Tex pants and jackets.  Waterproof bike panniers.  Had we forgot anything else on our trip we would have been fine, but those three items were absolutely essential.  Veronica and I each had a set of waterproof panniers.  In one set we kept all our clothes, while the other set had everything else, tire change kit, extra water, food, bungee cords, bike lights, etc…  I carried the Pacific Outdoor Equipment panniers and Veronica carried the Detours Georgetown panniers.  Each set was waterproof, and each set retailed for about the same amount.

The Detours Georgetown panniers were by far our favorite.  From the shoulder strap that allowed the bags to be carried with ease while not on the bike (quite a bit of time around train stations and airports) to the quick on/off racking mechanisms, the bags were superior in every respect.  The bags seem to be ideal for a wet commute and were just a hair on the small side for a two week long bike tour.  To be fair, Veronica and I only utilized rear panniers; however I would think four of these bags for one person would be more than adequate for a two week tour.  It would be nice in the future to see different sizes offered, but if you’re looking for a good set of bags for your next tour or better yet, a set of bags for your commute, the Georgetown panniers won’t disappoint.

 

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2012 GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – Hitchhikers & Tow Ropes

Post by:  Jake
8/19/12

As the sixth and last stage of the GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run (TRR) came to a close today I thought about what I wanted to close my coverage with.  LOTS of cool topics came time mind such as what “camp life” is like for an event like this; or what is it that brings some competitors back year after year while others are content to run it once and move on to other challenges and other adventures.  There’s certainly dozens of inspirational personal stories I could tell, such as the couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary by running a 125 miles race together after the doctor said he would be lucky to walk again a few years ago after getting T-boned in his car.  But, as the race draws to a close I’d like to reflect on just three quick questions I’ve been asked recently, 1.)  What’s with all the stuffed animals on peoples packs?  Do they really need the extra weight?  2.)  A tow rope, really? Couldn’t you find a partner that was equal to your athleticism?  3.)  Why on earth would someone pay any amount of money to get their ass kicked for a week?

Hitchhikers. The toys, trinkets, note cards, stuffed animals and other useless junk carried by racers.  Useless, at least, in the mind of the observer.  These hitchhikers are actually a huge morale boost to the runners.  From a child’s favorite toy, to a team mascot, every hitchhiker has a story behind it.  One team carried stuffed gophers to represent their home of Saskatchewan.  One glance at the crazy animal on their teammates back brought a smile to each other’s faces and lightened an otherwise lousy mood.  Another team carried notecards laminated and dangling off the back of their backpack, each one with an inspiring quote or word of encouragement to keep going when they felt like quitting.  Whatever the story, these hitchhikers are easily considered worth their weight in gold!

Short Roping or Towing.  Seeing a couple running down a dusty trail tethered to each other by a short piece of surgical tubing is quite an odd sight until you figure out its purpose.  The first time I saw this I scratched my head thinking it was some sort of cruel joke or a bet gone bad.  “If my team beats your team today, you guys have to run the race tied to each other tomorrow!” The tether actually serves a brilliant purpose.  Relieving a small amount of effort from one team mate by utilizing some of the other teammate’s “extra” energy.   It helps balance a team’s energy reserves, an important factor when racing a multi-day stage race.  And instead of simply picking the strongest matched partner, it allows teammates to race together that are otherwise not equally balanced in terms of the energy equation.  For more really good info on towing, and when and how to incorporate it into your team races check out this blog from Salomon Running.

$$$ WHY $$$ As you know by now, the TRR is a 6-day trail running race.  It’s all inclusive: meals are provided, transportation can be arranged, tents are setup and tore down each night; really, all you need to do is show up and run.  The race is run exceptionally well, but it does command a fairly steep entry fee of around $1,000 per person for the entire event.  So why on earth would anyone pony up so much cash just to get their ass kicked on the trail day after day?  The answer is simple, no pain no gain, and this is a heck of a good time!  The comradery and sense of accomplishment achieved through this race is like none other.  By the end of the race, you’ll be feeling beat down and like a million bucks at the same time.  If $1,000 sounds steep, consider this:  How much does a 6-day vacation cost you anywhere else?  With food, lodging, transportation, entertainment, ect…?  Put your mind to doing it and that’s it.  Do it!  Make it happen.  While the experience I had this year was merely camp life, taking pictures, and posting updates, I have been extremely inspired by everyone.  Biking around the course, seeing everyone start off each morning and come across the finish line grinning from ear to ear; I’m absolutely considering paying the entry fee and joining the race next year with my wife.  This is coming from someone who’s only run about 3-miles on trail and is much more of a cyclist than a runner.  But if someone from sea level Florida who has only the hot Everglades to train in, I sure as heck can get my butt on the trail over the next 12-months and get in good enough shape.    Here’s some coverage from Stage-6 today.  Enjoy!

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2012 GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – It Takes a Village

Post by:  Jake
8/18/12

Stage 5, 23.6 miles, 4,200 feet of elevation gain, one of the most challenging stages of the 6-day Trans Rockies Run.  While a gunshot signals the start of another leg of the race for the runners, to many, that same gunshot signals the start of a turbo charged migration of gear, equipment, and personnel.  While the racers are out jumping over logs, crossing streams and charging up and down mountains; a small army of volunteers is rapidly breaking down camp, the starting/finishing gates, and shuttling everything to a new base camp.  It’s cliché to say this, but it’s true, the volunteers of the Trans Rockies run are the lifeblood of this race.  Without them, the event certainly wouldn’t be possible.

While it would seem challenging to get people to volunteer to tear down then re-setup 200+ tents, hand out water at check stations, and pick up trash accidentally dropped on the trail; it’s actually a tough gig to land if you’re thinking of stepping up as a volunteer.  While a small army is needed to keep the wheels of the race in motion, most of the volunteers commit to returning year after year after year.  While they often don’t get the opportunity to run even a mile of the race, they keep coming back because of the bonds they’ve built over the years with racers and with the other volunteers.  That’s just how the Trans Rockies run is.  The community of racers AND volunteers is so tight, the majority of the competitors AND volunteers that I’ve met are returning race veterans.  In fact, several have been doing this every year of the races 6-year history.  Here’s a quick video from Stage 5 action today, including several shots of the volunteers that keep this ship from sinking!  Thanks Team!!

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GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run – Stage 4

Post by:  Jake
8/17/12

Nearly an hour before sunrise, my alarm went off and I crawled out of my sleeping bag to find myself completely immersed in the Trans Rockies Run (TRR).  Although the competitors range from full time sponsored athletes to weekend warrior trail runners, the TRR is a little Shangri La at the top of the Rockies.  It’s a little slice of heaven, a chunk of nirvana.   It’s what so many runners eagerly await all winter and train all summer for.  There I stood, still half asleep, in line for breakfast rubbing shoulders with a brotherhood of trail runners I was only beginning to understand.  Although I was joining the TRR close to half way through the six day event, every single racer I talked with cheerfully welcomed me into their clan.  It didn’t matter that I had never run a marathon, and hadn’t even run a mile of the TRR, the family of trail striders was quick to take me under their wing, answer my ignorant questions, and share their passion for running.

A gunshot signaled 8:00 a.m. and the start of Stage 4.  This stage consisted of 14.1 miles, and 2,900 vertical feet of elevation gain.  At the end waited the promise of margaritas and fish tacos at Mango’s in Red Cliff, Colorado.  Steep vertical rises, narrow single track, miles of loose cobble, and several river crossings comprised the day’s obstacles.  While covering the race, I got my feet wet, both metaphorically and physically.  My goal was to shadow the runners on my mountain bike.  I’d take “strategic” shortcuts to cut off the pack, snap some photos, and then hop back on my bike to leap frog ahead again.  Eight miles of my route would take me on an old abandoned rail line.  The track was beautiful, but hard to ride as it was full of loose scree and steep drop offs.  At one point a beaver dammed a nearby creek and I was forced to ride through in 2-foot water.  I had already forded a fairly large creek earlier in the day, so having wet feet wasn’t new.  Arriving at the finish line through the backdoor, I realized no racers had crossed yet, so I rode up to meet them.  Several miles later I came to Checkpoint 3, just in time to see team La Sportiva flying around the corner, not even blinking at the checkpoint.

Nearly an hour later the bulk of the pack came pouring out of the forest with wet feet.   From Checkpoint 3 a mere two mile dash downhill lay between them and the finish line at Mango’s in Red Cliff where fish tacos and a much needed cool dip in the creek awaited.  Check out the video I took of today’s race here:

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GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run 2012

Post by:  Jake
8/16/12

120-miles of trail running over 6 days.  The GORE-TEX® Trans Rockies Run is a stage running race that starts in Buena Vista, Colorado and ends in Beaver Creek.  180 teams of two and 100 solo runners are currently taking on one of the most enjoyable, yet challenging trail running races in the nation.

For this year’s race, I’ve been invited to immerse myself in the Trans Rockies community of athletes and write about what I experience.  I’ll be joining the race at Stage 3 of 6, and will be living with the runners over the next 4 days.

Stage run races are similar to stage bike races such as the Tour de France.  Each day starts a new leg of the race.  Many of the teams-of-two compete for the fastest time, and high stakes prize money ($20,000 is up for grabs this year), while other teams simply compete for new personal bests and bragging rights that they completed one of the most grueling high altitude races in the world.

Throughout the 6-day race teams will gain nearly 25,000 feet of elevation while reaching altitudes of over 12,500 feet.  Stage 3 (where I will be joining the race) is a gorgeous 24.1 mile run from downtown Leadville to Camp Hale, summiting Tennessee Pass at an elevation of 10,918 feet.  Total elevation gain for the day will be 2,674feet.

My hope is that you’ll enjoy this race coverage, and will be inspired to push beyond your current comfort zones. Here’s a video clip of the start of Stage 3 this morning. And other of Stage 3 action.

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Give-Away CONTEST ~ Detours Bike Bags


To help get you geared up this summer, between now and May 15th, we’re conducting another give-away contest!  Detours Bike Bags has generously sent us some of their outstanding new products to give-away to a few lucky people.   To be entered into the random drawing, we’re asking you to do 2 easy things:

1.)  Subscribe (and confirm your address) to our blog by entering your e-mail address in the green box at the top left corner of the page.  You’ll be sent a confirmation e-mail from “Feedburner” with a link to confirm your address.  If you’re already a subscriber, great you’re already 1/2 way there!

2.)  Comment at the bottom of this post (using the “add a comment” link) and share your summer plans with us. Are you traveling internationally? Planning a road trip? Mastering an old skill? Learning a new sport? We’re looking for some inspiration, and what better way then to hear what you’ve got planned!

That’s it,  At 11:59 p.m. on April 15th, the contest closes, we’ll randomly select 3 people using Random.org, we’ll make sure your a subscriber, then we’ll get in touch with the winners!

About the Prizes…

1st Place:  D2R Large Pannier Set. Large, water resistant back pannier set with universally compatible 4-point attachment system. Includes a rain cover.  We’ll be using a similar set this summer on our bike tour of Ireland!

2nd Place:  D2R Handlebar Bag. Awesome, all inclusive, handlebar bag. Perfect for commuting or touring.  We just posted a full review about the bag here.

3rd Place: Slice Top Tube Bag. Sure to become one of your favorite bike accessories. I know it’s our “most used” bike bag. We fell in love with this style of bag last summer, and can hardly go on a ride now without it!

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Detour D2R Handlebar Bike Bag Review

Post by: Jake
3/4/12

A few weeks ago Veronica and I got ahold of one of Detours newest bike bags.  They just launched a new series of bags called the D2R bags, and we got to test out the handlebar bag.  Not too flashy, and stripped of all the unnecessary features that add useless extra weight, the D2R bag line from Detour are all function and are built to last.

For our upcoming bike-tour trip to Ireland this summer I searched high and low for a handlebar bag that could serve multiple functions, carry the necessities in an easy access location, and something that could quickly detach for security reasons while the bike is parked. On top of the lid there is a removable foldover clear plastic map case; an absolute necessity for a bike touring trip through a rainy country you’re not familiar with.  Dual waterbottle holders, a couple slim book pockets inside, and 320 cubic inches of internal storage round out the bags storage features; while a speed disconnect handlebar attachment and a removable shoulder strap make this bag ideal for commuting to work or touring.

This bag will absolutely be our little black box on our upcoming touring trip. It’ll hold our cameras, extra water bottles, our passports, important contact numbers, extra money, and most importantly, our maps.  It’ll come off the bike every time we stop, and the shoulder strap will come out.  We’re not too concerned about someone stealing our stinky clothes located in our panniers, but everything else will be in our Detour D2R handlebar bag.  Whether you bike tour or are a daily commuter, at $65, the functionality of this bag will quickly make it one of the most valuable pieces of luggage on your bike.

 

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SnowSports Industry Association Trade Show (SIA Show 2012)

Post by:  Jake
2/4/12

Last weekend I attended the 2012 SIA show in Denver.  I’ve been to several “Outdoor Retailer” sporting goods trade shows, but this was my first SIA show.  About 1/5th the size of the OR show, the SIA show focused only on winter sporting goods; Snowboarding, Skiing, Backcountry gear, Nordic gear.  The trade show follows a similar format to the OR show, several days of trade show expo, followed by a couple days of “on the snow demo” at Winter Park resort.  About 900 brands were present at the show, displaying all their new gear for the 2012/2013 season, and while the sheer quantity of gear was overwhelming, when I broke the expo floor into market segments (snowboarding, skiing, backcountry, ect…) it was much more manageable to make my way around from booth to booth to learn about all the new gear that interested me most (mainly downhill and backcountry ski gear).  I did make it into several outerwear booths as well, including Adidas Outdoors, Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, and Mammut, just so I could check out their new Gore-Tex Active Shell pieces, some of which were available now, while some would be available next fall.  If you’re curious about Gore-Tex Active Shell, check out my earlier review on that here.  While the Arc’Teryx, Patagonia, and Mammut pieces were certainly cool, the more surprising, or enlightening? brand was Adidas Outdoor.  WAY different than what you may expect from the soccer and football company, Adidas Outdoor is an offshoot brand under the Adidas umbrella that launched their first pieces last fall.  Fresh on the market, you’ll only be able to find their gear at specialty outdoor retailers as opposed to the big box stores where your likely accustomed to finding Adidas gear.  I’m most excited about their Gore-Tex Active-Shell pieces, super high breathability, waterproof, guaranteed for life, and packed with features you won’t find in most Active-Shell pieces from other brands (like pockets!).

Another super innovative piece of gear I saw at the show came from Voile’.  You’re probably familiar with Voile’ as creators of some of the first split board backcountry snowboards, and shovels, avalanche probes, and other backcountry gear.  In fall of 2011, Voile’ debuted one of the most unique pairs of skis I’ve ever seen.  A high end downhill all mountain ski bread with a waxless nordic cross-country ski.  A full feature downhill ski combined with the fish-scale traction patch underfoot you’d see in a cross-country ski.  Ideal as a telemark ski for a ski-patroller or anyone else that wants the ability to go from downhill skiing to instantly climbing without the added step of putting skins on the skis.  Although you can’t climb as steep of slopes as you could with skins, the ability to rapidly transition to climbing is invaluable to some people.  You won’t be able to put your hands on a pair of these skis till next fall as this years lot is already sold out across the US, but when they do become available again, don’t expect them to stay on the shelves very long.

After the trade show, I attended one of the outdoor demo days at Winter Park Resort where I was able to try out several new pairs of skis that will be available next winter.  My favorites came from the company DPS.  Launched in 2005, DPS is one of the many modern boutique ski companies, but what makes them unique is their cutting edge carbon fiber based skis.  Super light underfoot, performance is uncompromised.  I skied a couple variants of the Whaler ski, both in a 99 and 105 underfoot, and while the 105 handled like your typical all mountain powder ski on soft snow, I was surprised how well it carved on the hardpack.  I can’t wait to give them another go someday; perhaps I’ve found my new backcountry ski!!!

 

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Hillsound Armadillo Gaiter Review

 

Review by:  Jake
2/4/12

Last summer, while attending the Outdoor Retailer sporting goods trade show, I walked by a booth with one of the sexiest gaiters I’ve ever seen on display.  I thought to myself, that thing looks part formula one race car and part ninja, melded together into a gaiter.  I never thought a pair of gaiters could be sexy, but dang, I was in love at first sight!

While I was drooling, one of the reps came out and talked to me for a while about the gaiter.  I learned that I was looking at a prototype and that the full production wouldn’t be available for a few more months, and that it was from the company Hillsound, and it was called the “Armadillo Gaiter”, a rather unsexy name for such a sexy gaiter.  If they would have asked me it would have been called the “Scorpion Gaiter” or at least something a little more lethal than an armadillo.  I came to find out later that the actual name was the Super Armadillo Nano Gaiter, a little more sexy I suppose, but it’s still named after an animal that likes to play dead.

After researching the gaiter a bit more, I learned that it’s made with technology that mimics the lotus leaf’s cellular composition in that water and debris simply rolls off, like it would roll off the back of an armadillo.  All that functionality just made the armadillo look a lot more sexy in my book.  That’s it, I had to get my hands on a pair of these!  So I contacted the manufacturer and made it happen.  A couple months later, as promised, Veronica and I both received a test pair, the standard Armadillo gaiter and the Super Armadillo gaiters.  Finally getting some decent snow in the hills, I took out the gaiters and snowshoes out and tried my hardest to give them a good solid test.  Plowing through knee deep snow, then post-holeing (without the snowshoes) for a while, the gaiters held super tight and did exactly what they were supposed to do, they kept the snow out of our boots.  My single complaint with both the Armadillo and Super Armadillo was the front closure system.  The top and bottom are well secured with buckles and velcro closures.  But the front zipper makes going on and off a bit more challenging than if there was a wide velcro flap closure instead.  A large flap closure would allow the gaiters to go on/off a bit quicker especially if they are going over a bulky pair of snow pants, or around a wide mountaineering boot.  Although with 4-way stretchable material throughout the gaiter, I did find that little extra give I needed in order to zip up the front zipper.  Once zipped, they did feel A LOT more secure then other gaiters I’ve used with the big velcro front closure.  I’m sure with more use, I’ll really get the hang of the zipper.  All in all, a pretty darn nice pair of gaiters!

With 3 models to choose from, the Armadillo, Super Armadillo, and Super Armadillo Nano, there’s certainly going to be one that will suite your needs.  The Armadillo is a great gaiter for light use, snowshoeing, spring/fall hiking through wet and muddy brush, possibly with some snowfield crossings.  The “Super” is the next step up and is designed for mountaineering and ice climbing.  The base ankle material is “Super” durable and should easily withstand most normal crampon scuffs.  The Nano is for even more difficult terrain and deeper snow.  Super durable, yet super light; the Nano looks to be one of the burliest cutting edge gaiters available; and certainly the most sexy!

 

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How to be Happy

Review by:  Jake
1/29/12

Just like with the Snow Sculpture Championships, for centuries upon centuries people around the world have found ways to celebrate life and have found little secrets to make life a little easier and more enjoyable.  The brand new book “Happy” published by Lonely Planet explores these secrets to happiness from the cultures of the world.  Whether it be getting lost to find yourself from the traditional Walkabout celebrated by indigenous Australian cultures, or just getting outside to enjoy some sunny weather as is celebrated in Sweden’s Midsummers Festival; the book “Happy” is packed with stories and tips to brighten anyone’s outlook on life.  I recently had a chance to review a copy of “Happy” and found it…well… pleasant.  Super easy to read, and packed with stunning photos, the descriptions of each unique festival, and cultural event make me want to start making reservations to partake in the festivities myself; but that’s not the point of the book.  The point is simply to make the reader aware of all the little joys in life and to engage the reader to get off the couch and go do something, and of course be “Happy”.

 

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