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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Knife Fight – The second cut

Earlier I had talked about wanting a new pocket knife and the process I went through in deciding which one would be best for me.  Well Christmas came and not only did I get the knife I chose, I received two others!  Can anyone say comparison test?

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The challengers are the Ontario RAT Model 1, Ontario RAT Model 2, and Leatherman Sidekick.

The baseline I had chosen to compete against is the almost historic Buck 110 Hunter.  (My wife’s favorite large folding knife.)

To be honest, when comparing these three tools against each other, it’s not a fair fight.  Each one is a different size and has different strengths and weaknesses.

As you can see, they all fold nicely and will fit into a pocket no problem, and all have line locks to hold the blade in place. (More on this later.)  What did surprise me is that the Leatherman Sidekick had the smallest blade.  I expected it to be at least the size of the RAT Model 2.

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The advantage of the Sidekick is all the tools packed in it.  You can do so much more with it than the Ontario folders.

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But, of course, it is also heavier.  I can put both Ontario knives in a pocket to offset the weight of the Leatherman which weighs in at 7oz.  The blades are 420 high carbon (HC) stainless steel.  That’s a big plus living in Florida with the high amounts of rain and salty air.  I see the Sidekick coming along with me on bike rides, picnics, beach excursions, and possibly some shopping in other towns.  The bottle opener will come in handy if I ever have that urge to buy Sprite in a glass bottle again.  (They don’t twist open.)

The overall features of the two Ontario RAT knives are the same but the differences in size changes the character of them dramatically.   Both are made in Taiwan, use AUS-8 steel, have stainless steel liners inside the handle, have “jimping” on back of the blades, and have black handles.

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I should also mention here that the RAT in these knives stands for Randal’s Adventure Training.  It’s a woodman/survival school, but I really don’t care about that.  I just like the knives.

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The RAT-2 is the Gentleman’s folder of the two.  Lightest to carry and very discrete.  Its three inch blade is very maneuverable for projects like trimming a picture or cutting down an oversized straw.  Non-knife people won’t feel threatened if you use this to open boxes at work or cut string for a kite at a kid’s birthday party.  My wife balked at me bringing my old Smith and Wesson knife to the movies, but has no concern when I bring this one.  It is the best in a social setting.005

Its big brother, the Ontario RAT Model 1 is the woodsman of the bunch.  Its 3.5 inch long blade is the closest to the original Buck 110 Hunter as is its overall length.

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The blade of the RAT 1 is also a tenth of a centimeter thicker than the Model 2 as well. (0.3 cm/0.12 in for the RAT 1 vs. 0.2cm/0.095in for the RAT 2)

The blade is definitely wider than the blade of the Buck and gives a good, solid feel to the blade as you carve with it.  Chopping through branches is really easy with this knife.

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The AUS-8 steel is nowhere near as rust resistant as Buck’s hard chrome stainless, so you need to keep the blades oiled to prevent rusting in high moisture areas.  (I have a rule of oiling them once a month just to be sure.)

The blade is a flat grind which will make it easier for me to sharpen and while it does seep up to a point, it doesn’t have the hole punching point of the Buck  110.

There are a lot of differences between the Ontario RAT 1 and the Buck 110 Hunter, but two items were the most noticeable to my wife.

The first was the locking mechanism for the blade.

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The Buck uses the lockback design.  What this means is that a long piece of metal along the back of the handle pivots against the bottom of the blade to hold it in place.  Pressing a part of it, levers it open to allow the blade to fold into the handle.

The Ontario uses a liner lock design.  Here the metal on the liner of the handle pushes out against the bottom of the blade to hold it in.  To close the blade, you must push this lock back towards the handle and hold it as you start folding the blade back into its handle.

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My wife doesn’t like the liner lock design because she is concerned about cutting her finger while closing the blade.  I know that once you start the process of closing the blade, you can move your finger out of the way and not worry about cutting yourself.  My personal concern with the lockback design is that lint or dirt can get caught in the pivot point of the blade and locking piece of metal in the handle, preventing it from locking and allowing the blade to swing back into your hand as you are pushing down on the blade to cut.  (In fact this has happened to me a number of times with other folding knives.)

The other difference is in how they open.

The Buck uses the original “pull with your thumbnail” method while the RAT uses a thumbstud to flip it open.  The thumbstud is definitely faster and is easier to use.  Could it get caught in your key ring and open if you shove your keys in your pocket with it?  I guess it’s possible.  I keep them in separate pockets, so that’s never happened to me.  I will say that I personally prefer a knife that is easy to open one handed and takes more attention to close than one that takes attention to open and is easier to close.

So that’s my opinion of these great knives.

The Leatherman Sidekick is great for active days biking or picnicking.

The Ontario RAT 1 is a great camper/woodsman folder

And the Ontario RAT 2 is great for a night on the town.

You can’t go wrong with any of them.

What’s that?  You want to know which one would I pick if I could have only one?  “Sigh.”  I knew you were going to ask that.  Well, since I started this project by looking at my wife’s Buck 110 Hunter and wanting something comparable for me, I have to say I’d pick the Ontario Rat Model 1.  It does all the hard chores with ease and I’m not afraid to work it.  It is exactly what I was looking for.  (I’m still keeping all three though.)

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Ramblings of: Lolly’s Estate store

If you’ve read some of my beginning posts, you’ll remember how I espoused exploring and finding adventure in your own backyard when you can’t go on a world-wide trip.

This weekend, I followed my own advice and took a trip with my wife to Lolly’s Estates R Us in my town of Port Charlotte.

Now I have to admit that estate stores are not the number one item on my list of places to go, but I found a new way of looking at the items in these stores.  I now look at them from a writer’s perspective.

Just as the Trifecta Challenge gives you a word or definition to play with, Lolly’s gives you an item to build a story around.  And Lolly’s has tonnage when it comes to choices.  Here.  See for yourself.

You have old teddy bears, porcelain, figurines, art paintings, folk art, books, DVDs, plates, and wood carvings all vying for your attention and fairly screaming with various stories of their own.

What stories could you make from these items?

The prices are good too so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank if you find something that calls your name.

So if you are in the area and are looking for something unique to jump start your creative thought, you need to check out Lolly’s Estates R Us in Port Charlotte.  You won’t be disappointed.

Lolly’s Estate’s R Us

2715 Tamiami Trail

Port Charlotte, FL  33952

(941) 625-2006