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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The hunt for Wolverines

Ice coated the lenses of my glasses as the wind buffeted my body, forcing me to lean into it like a reluctant lover.

It was only early October, but this was Sault Ste. Marie and winter was here.  I should’ve known it was coming when I saw utility workers attaching orange bicycle flags to the top of fire hydrants around campus.  The flags were six feet tall.  There was no way they needed to be that high.  Or so I thought.

I had walked around town dozens of times now. Being a student in a new area was exciting.   It was as far away from Detroit as I could think of at the time while still being in the state. There was familiarity in the bridge to Canada, the gas stations, Mc Donald’s, and I-75; and yet it was so different.  Smaller, quieter, cleaner. Geese waddled in the large field next to the school parking.  Rust from the slag in the cement gave the roads a reddish hue that matched the metal roofs of the college. It was almost exotic.

All of that escaped me as I trudged forward. The only thing that mattered was getting some boots.  Some good boots.  I was wearing my new winter coat and was amazed at how well it fought the weather.  It was made from a then new material called “thinsulite” and kept you warm without having all the bulk of traditional winter coats.  I could twist and move freely as I walked up the road without doing my best impression of the Michelin man. I loved it and I wanted boots that could match.

The wind was there when I started the journey.  Lake Superior State University (Lake State) sits on top of a hill and has two sides of it open to the river and a bay which brings an almost constant breeze.  (Sometimes, something more.)  It’s something you get used to.  What I didn’t expect was the sleet.  The wind drove the sleet forcefully down Ashmund street and into the opening of my hood.  My cheeks, already burning red from the winds and cold temps flared against the pelting.  Ice droplets the size of salt grains blasted against my skin while frosting my glasses and caking the front of my jeans.

I turned around and pulled out a bandana to wipe my lenses. Shoving it my pocket, I turned again to continue on. I made it about a block.  This started a curious dance.  Fight the wind and sleet for a block, turn and clean so I could see.  Walk, stop, turn, clean.  Walk, stop turn, clean. Somewhere along the way I gave up using the soaked and half frozen bandana to wipe my glasses and instead wrapped around my half frozen face to keep the stinging of the sleet down.  It took me twice as long, but I reached the store.

“What are you doing?  Dressing for Halloween?” Came the greeting from the store owner.

I smiled as I shook off my hood and pulled the bandana from my face.   I knew I looked ridiculous, especially to the natives, but didn’t care.  I didn’t see anyone else walking on the streets, native or not.  I proved my toughness, now I was going to get my reward.

Walking up and down the aisles, I unzipped my coat.  It was hot inside in comparison to the outside and I was beginning to sweat. Finding the boots, I looked at my choices. One had caught my eye.  It was a nice tan color with rubber  around the base of it and flowing over the toe area.  Being five inches tall, it reminded me of high-top basketball shoes. I searched for my size.  None were to be had.  I was disappointed.  They would’ve been perfect.  They were small but rugged, and they even had thinsulite in them.  Damn the luck!

Gazing to my right was another pair of boots.  Same brand, same features, but not as nice.  They were taller and had a dull, dark brown color instead of the bright yellow tan of the ones I really wanted.  Still they were well built and had a tongue that featured sewn in sides to keep the snow out.  They would work.

Throwing off my soaked sneakers, I pulled on the boots.  They seemed comfortable if heavy.  Tucking in my jean cuffs, I laced them and tied them tight.  With my sneakers in the box I paid the forty dollars plus tax, zipped up, and headed back to the dorm.  The three mile walk was easier with the wind at my back and new boots on my feet.  I almost enjoyed it.  That was, until I turned on Easterday Avenue and the wind changed to hit me square in the face.