Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Broken Down: A $1,000-Plus Repair


The adventure mobile, now dubbed the nickname "Monica" by a few friends, is out sick with the flu. That means my main method of transportation is kaput for awhile. Despite a solid, reliable drivetrain made by Subaru- my Saab 9-2x started to run into mechanical problems once the 125,000 mile mark passed over the odometer. Little things like burnt-out dashboard lights and a wonky heated seat switch (which in freezing cold Colorado is a necessary)- to now major problems that require a tow truck. Not all cars are bulletproof and while I take immaculate, impeccable care of my car; stuff still happens!

In this case it was the whole throttle body assembly that died, which prohibited the Saabaru wagon from moving anywhere once in gear. Super frustrating, yes, repairable? Thankfully. My local repair shop, First Class Automotive in Granby, CO continues to be a dependable place to go for automotive maintenance needs. Become a valued, repetitive loyal customer and you'll be treated well, well enough to be driven home from the repair shop in a new Cadillac Escalade. The problem, a broken throttle actuator control motor, continues to be a puzzle for the mechanics, and I've been without my beloved vehicle for more than a week now. It was fixed, supposedly, and I drove it home only to break down yet again with the same problem. Being charged $90 for a computer diagnostic is ridiculous, when I did it for free myself with my own OBDII reader that plugs into your car. Just goes to show how much you can save by DIYing.
Share:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Gear Review: SPOT Gen3

Outdoor gear I rely on.

There's a huge difference in backcountry and frontcountry communication. On the front range, we're used to having 4+ bars of 4GLTE, constant, uninterrupted access to social media, rapid text messages and emails. Step out into the woods, mountains or whatever backcountry scene appeals to you- and you lose a lot of that advantageous, reliable communication. I like to do a ton of solo camping, hiking, kayaking and backpacking- and the thought of running into trouble out in the backcountry without any way of contacting for help scared me. During a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park's Baker Gulch area, a dangerous storm popped out of nowhere and i was caught above treeline, by myself. That's a big no-no. What would happen if I slipped and fell while scrambling down some of the boulders? What would happen if I were half an hour away from my car and a tree fell on me, pinning me to the ground? Those worst-case scenarios above along with hearing news of a solor hiker gone missing on the notorious, Long's Peak led me to buying a SPOT Gen3 Global Satellite GPS Messenger.

For $150 (I picked up mine for $75 with a $75 rebate), you get a weather-proof, backcountry communications device with the ability to track your location as you trek, send custom preset messages to others, reach out to friends/family if you need not-so-serious help and most importantly, contact SOS search-and-rescue if you're in a life-or-death emergency.


After purchasing the beacon, you need to subscribe to  monthly --or yearly-- plan for satellite service. The standard rate is $15 per month and includes all the one-way communication benefits listed above, I purchased an additional GEOS Member Benefit for an additional $2-$3 per month. As a GEOS Member, you're insured up to $100,000 per year, in search-and-rescue costs that my apply including pricey helicopter-evacuations. That's an absolute no brainer to pay $17.95 a month for all that trusty security and extra insurance.

The SPOT Gen3 allows you to track your progress as you fill your craving for wanderlust in the backcountry. Turning on tracking mode, your exact location frequently gets pinpointed on an impressive map on your own personal, SPOT adventures site. This can be helpful for loved ones and friends to follow-along as well as give you the chance to see accurately where you trekked. A custom message function allows you to shoot-off a quick message to your predetermined contacts, and even your social followers on Twitter and Facebook. Spot's interactive, easy-to-use mobile app for both the iPhone and  Android market, offers easy, on-the-go customization of your messages and who gets contacted for what, along with mobile-tracking, which is fun to go back after a paddle or hike and see where you were once returning to the trailhead.


Have a nervous spouse or mother? The "I'm Okay!" check-in button sends a quick update with your location to ease the nerves on your favorite supporters who may worry where the heck you are in a massive national park. The red SOS button (hidden under a removable cover), is why I snagged up a SPOT Gen3 beacon though. After coming face-to-face with situations that were precarious and could have led me into deep trouble, I realized just how crucial it was that I carry a beacon. You can be the most cautious, prepared adventurer in the world but if you're out there solo and you get hurt, who knows exactly where you are? No one. Fear not, thanks to GPS satellite technology, SPOT has you covered. As soon as I strapped my beacon onto my backpack on a recent backcountry snowshoe hike, I immediately felt at ease knowing that if I needed help- I could get it. Even when traversing through steep terrain surrounded by tall, lodgepole pines, the SPOT's signal still made it through fine when checking- in and tracking. I bring this everywhere I go, county parks, state parks and our country's legendary national parks.


Praises:
  • Small, super light-weight and durable.
  • Water proof, snow proof.
  • Very easy to use and see that the device is functioning properly thanks to blinking LED lights.
  • Included strap and carabineer allow for endless opportunities of use no matter what outdoor hobby.
  • Fast, reliable one-way communication to satellites.
  • Easy to sync up to social media accounts, easy to set-up who will be contacted in an emergency, check-in or minor assistance event.
  • Inexpensive extra insurance that will save your life.
  • Very long battery life. Takes AAA batteries, meaning no worry about finding an outlet the backcountry.
  • Subscription service can be paid in yearly-full or month-to-month
Things to Keep in Mind:
  • SPOT's subscription service cost is at a disadvantage compared to rival competitors like the Delorme inReach (inexpensive and flexible, pay-only-when-you-use-it) and ACR ResQLink (no subscription service needed).
  • Only one-way communication at times might be frustrating, unlike with the two-way, Delorme inReach.
  • Like any beacon, you must have a directly clear path above in order for transmission to satellites, this may be tricky in a thick forest.
  • No flashing strobe light once SOS mode is activated for search-and-rescue seen on the competing ACR ResQLink.
Bottom Line:
Buy it, there's no reason not to and there's no excuse, really. A $75 item purchase plus a subscription cost of under $15 a month for reliable, last-resort help? This is definently one, rugged piece of outdoor gear you need to have in your cache. Fun fact, since its introduction a few years back, SPOT has helped rescue more than 4,697 outdoor enthusiasts from life-threatening situations.
Ready to buy yet? Visit http://www.findmespot.com/en/spotemergency/.
Share:

Gear Review: SPOT Gen3




Cost= $150-$170

There's a huge difference in backcountry and frontcountry communication. On the front range, we're used to having 4+ bars of 4GLTE, constant, uninterrupted access to social media, rapid text messages and emails. Step out into the woods, mountains or whatever backcountry scene appeals to you- and you lose a lot of that advantageous, reliable communication. I like to do a ton of solo camping, hiking, kayaking and backpacking- and the thought of running into trouble out in the backcountry without any way of contacting for help scared me. During a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park's Baker Gulch area, a dangerous storm popped out of nowhere and i was caught above treeline, by myself. That's a big no-no. What would happen if I slipped and fell while scrambling down some of the boulders? What would happen if I were half an hour away from my car and a tree fell on me, pinning me to the ground? Those worst-case scenarios above along with hearing news of a solor hiker gone missing on the notorious, Long's Peak led me to buying a SPOT Gen3 Global Satellite GPS Messenger.

For $150 (I picked up mine for $75 with a $75 rebate), you get a weather-proof, backcountry communications device with the ability to track your location as you trek, send custom preset messages to others, reach out to friends/family if you need not-so-serious help and most importantly, contact SOS search-and-rescue if you're in a life-or-death emergency.

After purchasing the beacon, you need to subscribe to monthly --or yearly-- plan for satellite service. The standard rate is $15 per month and includes all the one-way communication benefits listed above, I purchased an additional GEOS Member Benefit for an additional $2-$3 per month. As a GEOS Member, you're insured up to $100,000 per year, in search-and-rescue costs that my apply including pricey helicopter-evacuations. That's an absolute no-brainer to pay $17.95 a month for all that trusty security and extra insurance.

The SPOT Gen3 allows you to track your progress as you fill your craving for wanderlust in the backcountry. Turning on tracking mode, your exact location frequently gets pinpointed on an impressive map on your own personal, SPOT adventures site. This can be helpful for loved ones and friends to follow-along as well as give you the chance to see accurately where you trekked. A custom message function allows you to shoot-off a quick message to your predetermined contacts, and even your social followers on Twitter and Facebook. Spot's interactive, easy-to-use mobile app for both the iPhone and Android market, offers easy, on-the-go customization of your messages and who gets contacted for what, along with mobile-tracking, which is fun to go back after a paddle or hike and see where you were once returning to the trailhead.



Have a nervous loved-one or mother? The "I'm Okay!" check-in button sends a quick update with your location to ease the nerves on your favorite supporters who may worry where the heck you are in a massive national park. The red SOS button (hidden under a removable cover), is why I snagged up a SPOT Gen3 beacon though. After coming face-to-face with situations that were precarious and could have led me into deep trouble, I realized just how crucial it was that I carry a beacon. You can be the most cautious, prepared adventurer in the world but if you're out there solo and you get hurt, who knows exactly where you are? No one. Fear not, thanks to GPS satellite technology, SPOT has you covered. As soon as I strapped my beacon onto my backpack on a recent backcountry snowshoe hike in the Arapaho National Forest, I immediately felt at ease knowing that if I needed help- I could get it. Even when traversing through steep terrain surrounded by tall, lodgepole pines, the SPOT's signal still made it through fine when checking- in and tracking. I bring this everywhere I go, county parks, state parks and our country's legendary national parks.





Pros:
  • Small, super light-weight and durable. 
  • Water proof, snow proof. 
  • Very easy to use and see that the device is functioning properly thanks to blinking LED lights. 
  • Included strap and carabineer allow for endless opportunities of use no matter what outdoor hobby. 
  • Fast, reliable one-way communication to satellites. 
  • Easy to sync up to social media accounts, easy to set-up who will be contacted in an emergency, check-in or minor assistance event. 
  • Inexpensive extra insurance that will save your life. 
  • Very long battery life. Takes AAA batteries, meaning no worry about finding an outlet the backcountry. 
  • Works anywhere in the world, tested and true in Iceland on a 14-day trip.
  • Subscription service can be paid in yearly-full or month-to-month. 
Cons:
  • SPOT's subscription service cost is at a disadvantage compared to rival competitors like the Delorme inReach (inexpensive and flexible, pay-only-when-you-use-it) and ACR ResQLink (no subscription service needed). 
  • Only one-way communication at times might be frustrating, unlike with the two-way, Delorme inReach. 
  • Like any beacon, you must have a directly clear path above in order for transmission to satellites, this may be tricky in a thick forest. 
  • No flashing strobe light once SOS mode is activated for search-and-rescue seen on the competing ACR ResQLink. 
Bottom Line:
Buy it, there's no reason not to and there's no excuse, really. A $75 item purchase plus a subscription cost of under $15 a month for reliable, last-resort help? This is definently one, rugged piece of outdoor gear you need to have in your cache. Fun fact, since its introduction a few years back, SPOT has helped rescue more than 4,697 outdoor enthusiasts from life-threatening situations.

Buy one here.
Share:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Manitou Cliff Dwellings, CO

We've come aloooooong way in the way we live. Hidden in the shadows of nearby 14,114ft Pikes Peak and located west of Colorado Springs are the Manitou Cliff Dwellings museum, once home to the Anasazi tribe up until the late 1200s/early 1300s after being either starved as result of a nasty drought or driven out by an enemy tribe. Built into the rocky cliffs are complete pueblos and houses for sometimes up to 9 families, each occupying a space probably no bigger than your current living room. The dwellings are only about 90 minutes from Denver and admission to these cool relics cost about $10 a person, totally worth the trip. 



























Share:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Gear: My Wagon




It's the set of wheels that get me not just from origin to destination, but also the method of transportation that brings me to whatever adventures I choose to go on. Here it is, the 2005 Saab 9-2x.

After selling off a beloved, 18-year old oil guzzling Saturn and realizing other my fun car was ill-suited for most of my daily driving, I bought this black station wagon in the late winter of 2013. Hours later and negotiations complete, the Saabaru made its way off the dealer lot. What's a Saabaru? Short automotive history lesson in 3, 2, 1 go: back in the late 2000s, when General Motors owned a stake of Saab, big wigs decided they wanted to sell a luxurious product with all-wheel-drive that catered to an adventurous buying audience. Saab reached out to Subaru to create a partnership based on their Impreza wagon. Sharing Subaru's legendary all-wheel-drive powertrain and platform Saab took the Impreza wagon and added a whole lot of Swedish flair to it. From a stretched and wider body with completely new,, unique sharp front and rear styling, and luxurious interior appointments like two-tone heated leather seats, boatloads of sound insulation for a quiet ride and a tuned suspension- the 9-2x was born...but it lived a short two-year life span. (Click read more for all the pictures and the rest of the text)








































Engine choices were a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder (Linear models) or a turbocharged (Aero models) 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder. Both matched up with either a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission.

Almost 30,000 miles and two-years of ownership later- I'm completely satisfied with it. It's a perfect vehicle for any outdoor adventure recreation fanatic. I've spent thousands upon thousands of miles behind the wheel on the way to camping, backpacking and skiing trips. A large cargo area makes for loading all my outdoor gear in/out with ease and the long roof up top is fit for my kayak.




















Pros:
  • extremely dependable and capable Subaru all-wheel-drive system in snowy and off-road driving
  • great gas mileage, sometimes reaching more than 400 miles on a full tank and 34-36mpg
  • tons of cargo room, wagon win!
  • comfortable for long, long, drives
  • great 6-disc stereo (now replaced with an iPod compatible deck)
  • stylish appearance + luxurious cabin = lots of compliments
  • fun to drive
  • easy to do mechanical work on
Cons:
  • could use a more power under the hood
  • needs a bit more ground clearance for the more ambitious off-roading I've done
  • the remote-release gas filler lid doesn't always open in the cold and when frozen, stupid design Subaru, stupid design.
  • Subaru-based paint isn't the most durable and chips./scratches easily



Share:

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Garden of the Gods National Natural Landmark, CO

Great warm weather allowed for a visit to the Garden of the Gods park, a national natural landmark located in Colorado Springs. More than a thousand acres of hiking trails through skyrocketing sandstone formations. My favorite sights: the massive balanced rock and keyhole that you can see the 14,114ft Pikes Peak off on the horizon. (Read more to see all the photos which can then be enlarged by clicking on them)











Share:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Florissant, CO (2 pictures)

"We have to stretch the bun so we can fit the meat"- a conversation between the owner and a familiar local customer. On our way to a ACA (American Camp Association) Conference, we stopped for a late lunch at a gas station along US Highway 6. Walking past a lifted bright yellow Jeep, inside the gasvienece store was Mountain Burger. A woman in her late 50s accompanied by a scruffy chef cooked up $7 Mountain Burgers, Sweet Potato fries and mediocre milkshakes. The burger was overpriced yet tasty for being the only grub stop in dozens of empty miles. The method for disposing of boxes was simply chucking them out the drive-thru window. A corkboard near the trash can was littered with 'Missing Dog' ads for lost petite hounds named Lula, Demon and Gizmo. Onward we go in an exhausted Ford minivan.
Share:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Arapaho Bay, CO



Last week while skiing at Copper Mountain, a nasty fall from a popped-off ski led to a crazy painful knee injury that increasingly hurts to walk on. With hiking, snowshoeing and rock climbing out of the picture for a while; I'll resort to exploring around CO via wagon.

Inside the massive Arapaho National Forest --neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park-- is the Arapaho Bay, located in a far corner of Lake Granby. Above the clear cold water, the Indian Peaks mountain range shows off some of its prominent nearby assets like the Twin Peaks, Mt. Acoma and bordering Watanga and Hiamovi Mountains.

Enter off highway 34 into the Arapaho National Recreation Area and follow a 10-mile dirt road covered in snow that winds along the lake past tall lodgepole pines and curvy exposed rock faces. If you don't have all-wheel-drive or 4x4, I'd wait till the road clears so you're not stranded. 
















Share: