A year in my shoes.

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This was supposed to be easy.  Throw a picture up, toss out some words and poof!  Instant post.  Instead it’s over four days past my plan of posting and I’m still struggling.

I fell into the trap of overthinking. I needed new work boots and wanted to explain why I picked those originally and why I switched to something else.  The idea was good, but the words that came were so sterile and analytical.  Completely uninspiring and off-putting for me. I wanted something else, something better.

Kinda like my boots.

The boots I had were so disappointing this time.  They were Wolverines.  I’ve owned four pair of Wolverines in my life and three of them were this style. This pair just did not work.

You see the toes?  It took just one day for the leather covering the steel safety caps to wear off.  I was weeding and the shuffling of my feet against the asphalt wore the leather off by the time I was done.  The boots were one week old at that time.  I’ve had that happen with $30 boots, but never Wolverines.  There was no way I could explain this as normal wear and tear either, so I didn’t bother to call or write about warranty work.

The rest of the boot was fine.  They still were comfortable and supportive.  Together, we dug, moved, pushed, hiked, crawled, and even kicked through our work time.  I had noticed that this set of boots wasn’t as flexible as the earlier ones.  It took more effort to flex on the balls of my feet.  Still they did their work, but the stress was showing.

Then the rains hit.

Florida is known for its torrential rains, but this one was impressive.  It wasn’t tropical in nature, but the results were the same.  Roads closed, traffic diverted, trees fallen, electrics under water, and hundreds of fire-ants huddled together in a ball, just waiting for some poor soul to latch on to.   The last time I saw flooding like this was after tropical storm Gabriel.  The water was so high that the utility vehicles stalled from the strain.  I pushed mine off to the side.  It took three days for my boots to dry completely.  The leather never fully recovered.

The final straw came when the left sole split completely through.  I hadn’t noticed it until the day I had to clean brush out of a drained canal.  The area was drained, but not dry.  Its mud was slick and water seeped up with every step.  My soaked sock alerted me to the crack the boot’s sole.

It was time for a change.

But to what?  I sifted the search engines, read articles, and waded through the horribly arranged Amazon filters.  (It was easier pushing the utility vehicle through the flood than it was trying to find decent work boots with specific requirements on Amazon.)  Given the events of the year, I came up with an unusual result.  Jungle boots.  What other style would handle the abundance of water, humidity, and mud?

Jungle boots are not the easiest things to find.  Rack Room Shoes, Sears, and all the other usual stores were out and while I will buy some things online, boots aren’t one of them.  You have to go to an army surplus store.

Army surplus stores are very interesting to visit.  Tucked in the corner of a strip mall, they can be as bright and organized as Dick’s Sporting goods, or as dark and cluttered as a Hollister’s run by teenage boys.  The store I found was a mix of both.  The lights were low, but everything was organized.  Unfortunately they didn’t have any Jungle boots.  They did have other choices.  Desert boots, training boots, combat boots, parade boots, boots for almost anything.  I had no idea what to look for at this point.

So I asked for help.

The lady listened to what I wanted as well as the price I was willing to pay.  She offered a pair that is light, flexible, durable, and well-constructed.  They aren’t water proof, but they are good against high humidity and dry quickly.  They also are bought by police and fire fighters who are used to standing in their boots for long hours at a time.

I’ve had them for a week and they have handled having the toes scraped against the concrete, heavy mud, miles of walking and flexing of the soles.  So far I’m impressed.  Only time will tell if they last they year.  A future review will be coming.

In the end, this article is similar to my journey into new boots.  I struggled with it at the beginning and took many unexpected turns along the way before ending in an upnote.

With the creative damn broke, I look forward to the journey ahead.

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Rebuilt

Useless, unwanted, thrown out.

Discarded by those that once cared for them.

Broken

Left out to rot under the elements without protection.

Wasting or waiting, not sure which

Collected up one by one

Brought to a field

Sorted and stacked

Altered, shaped, changed

Put to a different use.

Crafted, Made

Rebuilt and rebirthed.

The start of something new

Oasis

Waves of distortion hung low in the air as heat radiated up from the parched earth. A silhouette floated across as the soft crunching of footfalls broke the dead calm.  The man squinted his eyes beneath his wide brimmed hat in defense his late afternoon sun. His gaze finds the skeleton of a tree that draws him to it.

Crunch-crunch-crunch

Tucked in a bow, he finds a nest, poor and sloppily built. Inside of the nest sat three chicks, freshly molten from their baby fuzz.  Nude and hot, they look to the sky with open beaks.

The man reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle and straw. The man grimaces as he feels the weight of it.  Shaking the bottle, he heard the splash of remnants. Not much, but some. Dipping the straw into the bottle, he proceeded to quench their thirst, one by one.  Each chick was allowed three pulls all the water was gone.  The man looked up to see their mother sitting on a perch, staring down at him.  He noticed an insect caught in her beak.

Backing away, he nodded to the lady before putting away the bottle and straw. The bird flew to the nest as the man moved on.

Unintended Consequences

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had no plans to start another project. I just saw some misinformation and just wanted to correct it.

Like many out there I was multi-tasking over the weekend. (ie: keeping myself entertained while doing chores) This time I had chosen to listen to some YouTube videos while cleaning up the dog run.  I have found that many of the videos I watch have enough narrative that I don’t need to watch them to understand what’s going on.

I saw that a guy who calls himself “NutnFancy” had released a video comparing emergency fire starting fuel tablets. I’ve enjoyed some of his camping/adventure videos and thought this would be interesting. The guy comes from a military background, Air Force, so he naturally gravitates to that spectrum of equipment where I prefer the items you find in nature.

Nutn, as I call him for short, loves something called Tri-Ox. It looks kinda like a harder version of Sterno (Camping fuel for cooking) and burns very hot.  In his test he compares this against other survival/camping fuel tablets that are readily found in the camping aisle of your favorite store.

As I’m raking I hear him complaining how hard these other items are to light using a ferro rod. (A rod of metal about three inches long and a quarter inch in diameter that throws off lots of sparks when scraped with a hard metal edge; Like the back of a knife.) I stop and rewind the vid.  Looking at it, I noticed that he didn’t prep any of the survival fuel tablets and that he’s using the rod wrong.  He’s actually pushing some of the fuel tablets away as he swipes down the ferro rod with the back of his knife.  Later in the video he laughs as he realizes that he was not using the fuel tablets correctly and that he should’ve read the instructions.  He then justifies his choice in using Tri-Ox since it didn’t need any prepping and caught fire rather easily.

I thought he was doing a disservice to the other fire starting fuels since they weren’t used correctly. I had one of the brands in my day pack and had used it once for an online camping class.  (Make five fires using man made materials)  I knew it worked and wanted to give an honest review of that product.

So I made a video in reply.

By most standards it is a bad video. It was dark; you just see my arms for the most part; The sounds wavers as I move around; and the angle is off so you don’t see everything I wanted to show.  It also didn’t help that I was using my phone as the camera and propping it up with a selfie-stick and wedging that between the rails of a beach chair.

It’s also unscripted. Very much so.  I found myself saying phrases I’ve never used before, and in parts, I find myself sounding grumpy.  I know that because I was grumpy.  Nutn had made a big deal about being in the wilderness when he did his review.  He voiced his opinion that being “in the wild” made the test more accurate than if it was made in his back yard.  I’ve always had a problem with that line of thought.  I feel that you should practice in the comfort of your own back yard because not only does it give you more time to practice your skills, but the familiarity of your surroundings helps you focus on what you are doing and not what is going on around you.  This gives you the familiarity of the task when you do go out into the field.

I was also a little frustrated by my weather conditions. Nutn had done his testing in the snow-capped mountains of Utah.  I live in Florida.  It doesn’t snow here.  In fact, it was in the 50s that night.  But it had rained heavily for two days, two days prior.  Everything w3as still wet.  How would I show that?  I went to the swale and showed how much water was in it after those days of drying out.  There was a light breeze blowing as well.  I wore a T-shirt with no jacket to feel some coolness as I went about starting the project.

There were some funny moments where I had kneeled down on the lanyard of my multi-tool and had to shift to free it; or when I put the dried Spanish Moss over the lit fuel tablet and had it almost combust into flames in my hand.

The fire went off without a hitch and about the only real regret I had was in not clarifying that I had used the back of the saw in my multi-tool to scrape the ferro rod and not the teeth.   It’s easily shown in the video, but I still wish I had explained this part better.

Oh well, no matter.

After enjoying the fire, I came inside and started processing the film for transfer to YouTube. It took over two and a half hours of editing, saving, converting, and uploading to get the five minute long vide up on YouTube.

I didn’t mind though, once I had posted the reply on Nutn’s video. I had made my point.

I got a few people to look at it and two responses to it on his page. Just as I expected.  What I didn’t expect was to get a subscriber of my own.  I had made this video just to point out a different point of view and result.  I had not planned on anything bigger.

Now I’m wondering if this is something I should pursue? I like being outdoors and teaching new skills. It would easily fit into my blog as well.  But would you like it?  Is it something you would like to see as a semi-standard on this blog?  Will you find the subject interesting?  Bushcrafting/camping is big on TV right now, but is it over done.  I’m no master.  I’m just a student learning as I go.  I would be showing you what I learned and how I learned it.

Are you interested?

Here is the video I made and beneath it will be NutnFancy’s video so you can see how mine fits in relation.

Just let me know what you thing in the responses   I’m curious to what you think.

My video

NutnFancy’s review of fire starters

 

 

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline – An automotive reboot.

Picture provided by Motortrend.co,

Picture provided by Motortrend.com

When Honda introduced the Ridgeline in 2005, it was the truck equivalent of Zima. Zomething different.  Not quite a truck, not quite a SUV.  It looked kinda like a midsized Chevy Avalanche, but didn’t carry the tough look.  Some would argue that it competed against the Subaru Baja as a modern four door El Camino, but it was chunkier in comparison.  Honda billed it as the truck for “Cool dads”, but the pitch fell too short. Honda’s Ridgeline was just too different.  The sales numbers proved this.

In 2006 The Ridgeline hit its sales peak at 50,193 sold in the U.S. When the original design ended in 2014 the Ridgeline sales struggled at 13,389. To put this in perspective, the Ford Ranger sold 92,420 models in 2006 and in its last year run of 2012, sold 19,366.  (Honda sold 14,068 Ridgelines that year.)*

With such low sales, Honda followed Hollywood’s latest trend and rebooted the Ridgeline.

First they stopped production of the previous design for two years. This let the memory fade a bit and allow a better reaction for the new version.

Second they made it fit the mold better. The original Ridgeline left you wondering what it was. The image of this Ridgeline is better defined.

Alas, as with other reboots, the traditions of the original are easy to spot. The New Ridgeline is of unibody construction just like the old one.  This is proudly acknowledged by the executive vice-president of American Honda, John Mendel.  He touts the rigidity of the unibody, while promising a smoother street ride than the traditional, body on frame trucks of Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan.

John is smart to point out that the Ridgeline in no way competes against the big boys of the full size team. No sir!  The Ridgeline is aimed squarely at the Colorado, Tacoma, and Frontier.

But, in a way, it’s not.

Even though Mendel boast that this is a tough truck, and that the payload and towing rates are right in the fight with the other welterweights, (Up to 1,600 pounds payload and an estimated 5,000 pounds towing as of this writing) he openly admits that contractors need not apply.

This truck “Isn’t about the jobsite” he stated during the Ridgeline’s introduction at the NAIAS, it’s “about the lifestyle.”

In short, the Ridgeline is for the hobbyists. People who need a truck for light duty projects and occasional hauling, but not a career building companion.  Campers, beach combers, motorcyclists, and kayakers are who Honda is aiming at; not landscapers, pool supply runners, and handymen.  Sure you can fit a sheet of plywood between its wheel wells in the bed, but you still have to lower the tailgate and have it stick out a little to have it lay flat.

Honda also insisted on keeping the spare tire tucked in a separate compartment under the floor of the bed. Not underneath the bed as other truck do, but in a mini trunk under the floor of the bed.  (The mini trunk also has a spot with drain plugs so you can turn it into a cooler.)  This would be such a hassle if you were carrying a load of gravel and you suddenly blew a tire on your way home.  But Honda thinks this will be a rare occurrence with its buyers.  This is reinforced by the addition of a new sound system for the bed and the vehicles front wheel drive layout.

Honda has found a way to turn its bed into a giant speaker using six of what it has named “Exciters”. The exciters vibrate the bed just like a magnet in a speaker, creating a large sound device.  Evidently Honda wants to be all about that base.

If that doesn’t shake up the market, the Ridgeline’s front wheel drive surely will. Besides being body on frame, all trucks have been designed with rear wheel drive as standard.  This is done so that when you put a load in the bed, it adds weight to the driving wheels and adds to their traction.  It also helps when towing. Truck purists are going to give the Ridgeline a long, sideways look before shaking their heads and moving on.  But, again, these are not the people Honda is aiming at.

The Honda Ridgeline is a recreational tool built for fun times. It comes with a six speed auto as its only transmission choice as well as an all-wheel drive option with a multimode terrain management system so owners don’t have to do any work in switching from front wheel drive to all wheel drive. It’s in bed 400 watt converter can power sawzalls and drills, but will more likely be used for margaritas and x-boxes.

Like every reboot, the Honda Ridgeline is high on gloss and shine. Only time will tell if it makes it into the heart of the buyers.

  • Sales numbers provided by left-lane.com
  • Quotes are from the 2016 NAIAS video on youtube

Back in the saddle

A man lay down in a bed of earth. His body was covered in a dingy batter of dirt and sweat.  The summer heat of the sun slowly baked the batter to a dry crisp.

Away from him, a horse wandered around, rooting with its nose as it searched for a thatch of grass to munch on.

There was no thought in the man’s head. Just the shallow rising and falling of his chest.  Up, down.  Up, down. In and out. Breathe.

He groaned softly as he lifted his arm to block the sun from his face.

Sore.

An easy move made hard by the crash of the fall.

Cursing silently, he cajoled himself to sit up.

“Is it worth it?” He asked as he looked at the horse.  “Does it really matter?”

His back stiffened in protest as he shifted to his knees. The man slowly turned his head to see if there are any witnesses to his fall.  There was no one around.  Only the three rail fence separating him and the horse from the open fields. Past that, open prairie expanding into the horizon.  No one was there to impress; no one to disappoint. There was nothing to prove. The man exhales slowly.

The horse’s nicked as the man stood up. Every bone and muscle protested against him. He stretched to protest back.

Sighing at the thought, the man groaned as he bent to pick up his hat. Limping as he walked, he made his way to the horse. The horses ears twitched as she shifted away from him.

“Easy.” He soothed. “Let’s take this slow.”

The man slid his boot in the stirrup and climbed back into the saddle.