So thanks to REI’s basement of return goods, I’ve scored a few more outdoor products that I’ve been putting to the test. I’m not an advanced outdoorsman by any means but this simple, affordable gear has allowed me to get into some activities with both confidence and style… and that’s something worth writing about.

First we have something that I was lacking in my PNW wardrobe: a good rain shell.

The Mountain Hardwear Conduit DT jacket is a pretty basic model, but my goodness does this breathable rain proof 2.5 ply shell ever do a good job. It’s light, waterproof, packable, and has just enough features… the hood fits me well(though in its rain shielding it does inhibit forward visibility a bit much for walking in a city), the pit zips are generous, and the pockets are well placed and thought out.

I’m all in all very happy with this jacket- it was a steal at 26 dollars moderately used return(the velcro at the wrists has roughed up the fabric, otherwise only mildly worn… still v. waterproof and the zippers work great, contrary to the customer’s reason for the return)… and I don’t even mind the DUDE::ITSRAINING blue color.

Next up we have the Flash 18.

The Flash 18 is phenomenal.

Now, I don’t exactly love REI’s designs on their house brand clothes. The clothing, and Element jackets in particular, take a rather conservative approach to technical wear that I find uninspired. The design and look of their bikes, however, is beautiful and very competitive, while still attractively practical and muted. A Novara Safari next to, say, a Scott SUB10 is a veritable marathon of class, taste, and sophistication. Their jackets are like your sensible, work-a-day neighbor who never plays music loud and only washes his sports car after driving through mud puddles, instead of every other saturday just so you can see just how shiny the paint is. They’re great, and they’re fine, but they’re toeing the line of ‘unremarkable,’ insular in their bubble of ‘respectable.’

Not so with their backpacks. Their backpacks may not have the cool names or exotic looks and graphic assaults of similar bags from osprey, arc’teryx… nor the boldface design of one such mountain hardwear or north face, but what they lack in formidible recognition cues, they more than make up for in their sheer awesome-performance-for-versatility-to-feature-for-price chart ratiometer. Seriously… these packs pack a whallop.

The heavy, conquer the wild with massive hauling ability touring backpacks are sturdy and designed with an exacting hand. I have no experience backpacking but… they seem better equipped than my fifteen year old kelty external frame and more stylish than the oh-so-expensive-because-they-work-so-well Gregory packs they find themselves next to. Again, just a snap judgement without any experience, but they look great-

All the way down the range to the award winning flash lineup… which this, the 18L sack, rounds out the bottom of. Now a lot of people look at this and say “minimalist on a budget” but to that I say… “realist with a gumption.”  The material is light as all get out, and the design cuts no corners while taking a racing line through the material mass index. I have read reviews of the daisy chains breaking loose, but after a mild hike with a full nalgene and my climbing shoes carabiner’d to the tool loop, I’m going to say those were flukes and if these chains can’t handle your load, you’re asking too much of a minimal pack. More on that later, as I’ve ordered 12′ of quarter inch shock cord and three spring locks to make a compression mesh through the chains on the back. Will they hold up? I think so.

Speaking of minimalism, I also dropped 15 dollars on this 5 ounce “everything but the water” survival kit:

I’ve taken this pack climbing, hiking, grocery getting, and to friends houses. It’s appointed well. At 30 dollars, the flash 18 poses a ridiculous value for the style and performance delivered. All the colorways were beautiful and contemporary, making it hard to pick this slate/orange combo… but I’m happy. It blends exceptionally well with the Conduit DT shell, and only clashes a little bit with the Next Thing On The List.

The Scarpa Techno rock climbing shoes are very, very nicely crafted. I am extremely new to rock climbing but I will say, I wouldn’t be having near as much fun learning had I not scored these beautiful 135 dollar shoes for 67 dollars slightly worn with a single lace loop broken. They fit me great from what I can tell and the grip I find with these things blows me away every time I put my weight through them.

The Mad Rock chalk bag, new, $15, is by far my least favorite *looking* of my latest trappings… but while I don’t necessarily like the style or design of this bag, it does match the color scheme of the Scarpas well enough and when it comes down to it, a chalk bag is a chalk bag is a chalk bag. It even has a stash pocket that I’m using as a ziplock bag holder for the chalk sock I put in it.

Now while some might cringe at the thought of putting your foot into a used climbing shoe, I’m not really a germaphobe. Also, my sense of ‘fit’ is somewhat (extremely) undeveloped… so from what I can tell these are great shoes that are doing their part in my introduction to bouldering and climbing.

I may not be climbing with any authority yet, but I am utilizing some holds and smears and wedges to get some lines I can be overjoyed about… and I think these shoes will outhold my skill level for some time to come.

So in conclusion: I spent a little chunk of change over the last few weeks at REI, but damn if I didn’t get some nice gear for it.

This summer I plan on Day Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, Climbing and braving the rain like was previously unthinkable. I feel extremely Seattlite, and by gods does it feel good.



I really wanted a Kona Unit from the second I saw one locked up downtown.

The sliding dropouts mean you can run a disc brake and achieve chain tension easily and quickly. The Unit has space for huge tires but you can set it up as a brakeless fixed gear if you won’t have trails to hit.

Now that I live close to the I5 Colonnade skills park, I really want a mountain bike again. I’m hoping to sell my track bike for a unit, but that’s a lot of money that I don’t have.

i'd even ride a purple unit.

So yeah. Instead of having three bikes, I’d rather have two. Or one. I don’t think a singlespeed is a good “only bike” but if I had a unit and a road bike, I think I’d be really happy.
Maybe I can make that happen.

Hands on Impression of the Canononon Gee, Eleven?

The Canon G11. I had recently blogged about how awesome it looked and how it had all the features I wanted… nay… needed in a camera. And how much everyone liked it. And how excited I was to trade in my Nikon D50, the aging six megapixel dinosaur, for it.

Then I actually got it.

I should say right up front… It’s great. It takes awesome pictures. It really is a remarkably powerful little machine, that feels great in the hand and will do things so well you’ll wonder why people spend thousands of dollars on cameras that will essentially give you an image comparable to the G11’s in most situations.

But what you have to understand, is that I’ve been shooting film and digital SLR cameras all but exclusively for years. Like, decades. Like, as long as I’ve been shooting. I have never owned a real point and shoot digital camera before. Yes, I’d shot with point and shoots like my Dad’s Kodaks and Sonys… but even those were run of the mill soccer practice consumer bullshit cameras, and they were designed and built years ago. I was expecting a point and shoot for professionals that wasn’t just newer, but a different level… a different league. I was expecting the shutter lag to be negligible… existent but lightyears beyond the old cameras I remembered using back when digital was still new. I was expecting it to autofocus quickly and handle just as quick.

I was expecting a real tool.

So what’s all this technology done for us? It’s made cameras smaller. It’s made things a lot clearer. But I knew this from DSLR shooting… I was also expecting it to make things faster.

And… well… the thing is slower than my 2002 era Kodak. At least it seems that way. Sure, have the thing in bright sunlight and a clear subject and it won’t lag more than a heartbeat… but forget any kind of action or low light or even complicated scenes… the camera will sit there thinking about what you’re asking it to do, even in the manual modes, even in the quick shot modes, for EVER. The point and shoot delay is long enough to bring annoyance to frustration, and it will flat out miss pictures if anything changes. The autofocus is nothing like a big bright 35mm af system.

Now, I only blame myself for having my expectations so high. I wanted it to make beautiful pictures. I wanted it to have usable ISO. I wanted it to have IS that made zooming handheld pictures a breeze. I wanted it to shoot automatically and nail the exposure. I wanted it to look like a BOSS and feel like a REAL camera, with metal dials and sure clicks when you turn them.

And it does all of this.

Wonderfully, in most situations.

But take it out of those bright, even, static and simple situations and the thing is like shooting with an early point and shoot. It only works when it feels like it. It’s like an artist friend who can follow through on some amazing shit, but takes forever to do it. It’s frustrating as all hell and it makes all the incredible triumphs feel like shit because the second that you’ve been waiting for when someone does something magical and you have your camera in your hand and you can feel the perfect shot in front of you… that’s all going to slip away while you watch a little blinking orange light dance in front of you, no matter how you fiddle with the settings or what you anticipate or anything. You’re going to be sitting there, waiting on this thing to work.

I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill here, but shutter lag is the exhaust port on the photography death star. If a camera can’t take the shot the instant you press the shutter, your dreams will shatter in a fiery explosion in outerspace.

It’s paramount to any photographer. A slow camera is a slow camera, but a lagging shutter means that the camera takes the picture on its terms. That single concept, for me, kills the entire magic behind making a picture.

I’m going to give you an example. Here are two pictures captured with the G11 in the week I’ve had it.


Marymoor Velodrome with Samba Bike

Now obviously these are extremely contrasting images…

But I’m very happy… thrilled really… with each of them. The difference is that I don’t feel that I really made the first one. Sure, I took the picture, but I did not think that Hannah’s hand would be moving in the frame when I hit the shutter button… because it wasn’t. She was doing something, sure, but the camera took that picture when it was good and ready. And it did the same for the shot outdoors… but I can’t ever feel like I’m in control of when the picture will actually expose itself to the G11’s sensor because if life is in motion – as it so often is with a small, compact camera – the G11 is going to take just long enough to miss the shot you really want to take, and just long enough to surprise you with the shot you didn’t even know you wanted to take. It completely kills the act of taking a picture.

And now I’m even depressed about my REAL camera, because holding a D700 is like holding a rocket launcher compared to any compact camera. It’s important and serious as fuck and EVERYONE is going to know that… even the people who see a D3000 and think the same thing. That’s just the effect it has. But the D700, you see… is a Camera. The G11… it’s a toy. And it requires patience I don’t have.

So I’ll return with another review of sorts in a few more weeks once I’ve tried to develop that patience that I lack.

Bike Path Racer Confessions

My friend Josh Cohen is a bike nerd. If you needed any proof of this fact, you can just look at his paid blog- he’s Publicola’s official Bike Nerd. Everyone in Seattle is going to know this soon, too.

Anyway, Josh is awesome. I went to college with him and whether working under him on the editorial board of the school newspaper, alongside him as a peer in a number of classes, or just hanging out milling between parties I grew to be conscious of the fact that I like and respect his opinions. Since school I’ve develped the sense that I don’t only respect them, I value them; highly.

That doesn’t mean I have to agree with him, though.

Josh recently wrote a splendid piece for the bike nerd blog about the Burke-Gilman trail and the menacing racers who frequent it, endangering others and generally going much too fast for the joining traffic.

Now I’m not arguing against the danger of such racers, and that it is very dangerous to have a confined area in which people of various sizes and mobilities are travelling in vastly different means at drastically different speeds: it’s dangerous. There’s no way around that.

Where I take issue is the point of contention that racers should slow down on the gilman and keep the racing to less populated trails or roads. He of course is only saying that this needs to take place only when there are people present and the trail does not accommodate a safe margin of space and visibility, but even that is something I don’t agree with completely.

Pedestrians need to know that they are sharing the path with fast bikers. Bikers should be courteous, and safe, but they shouldn’t stop doing anything dangerous just because there’s danger. When I bike, I don’t expect cars to try to stop being dangerous when they race past me. I’d rather be a pedestrian travelling at less than 4 mph and be hit by a cyclist on a 30lbs machine travelling 20 mph than be a cyclist on a 30lbs machine hit by a 3000lbs machine travelling the same speed… let alone the real world approximations of 13 mph vs 25 mph.

If you take the danger out of a hugely popular and heavily used mixed use trail, people don’t think about safety. I honestly don’t think people being less safe is a good thing, but I think the danger in a path racer buzzing pedestrians is far less serious than a road raging idiot in a car, and blogging about eitheris internet douche fodder at best.

I’m going to quote Minus Blindfold here, “that son of a bitch swerved almost hit two kids.”

And by quote, I mean confess. I came within inches of hitting two adults on the Burke yesterday because they weren’t looking and I was riding brakeless and not yelling bloody murder until I realized they were all of a sudden jumping into my vector. My reserved yelling, not incessant “on your left”ing but actual dangerous/scary “WHOA!” or “AAP!!!” yelling, singlehandedly prevented these and other potentially terrible collisions… by inches. These people, each of who were travelling perpendicular to path traffic without warning or looking before they leaped, would have been under my wheels had they not stopped themselves in time –  and I would have felt horrible -but next time maybe they’ll look. Danger’s only bad if it results in injury… and asking path racers to stop being dangerous is like asking people to stop driving cars. It ain’t gonna happen, sister.

Josh is sensible in his argument but I just don’t see it that way. The burke needs its racers like the jedi rebellion needs the sith.

Weigh in on the debate at Josh’s blog:

Velodrome Alpha: My 50 Mile Ride on a Track Bike with the Canon G11

March 31:

A beautiful Day in Seattle

The weather was great so I took my new Canon G11 and I headed north to the University Bridge. This is what Portage Bay looked like when I left.

It seems I wasn’t the only person with intentions to be on a bike for the sunshine…

The bike lanes were seeing a considerable amount of traffic for midday Wednesday.

I hit the Burke-Gilman with my sights set on Kenmore Camera. I needed to see what they had and had aspirations of a short camera strap.
The trail was beautiful.

Complete with Bike Fridays

I stopped to take a bunch of pictures, so this is going to be a post about those.

Sand Point way has nothing on me.

I took this from on high.

So did my bike. Reminds me of Southern California. In good and bad ways.

North Seattle by the Burke Gilman is very interesting. It’s not urban but it has that type of sensibility.

Like the decay that’s part of life.

Eventually, through enough narrow paths and blind car crossings, I arrived in Kenmore.

Kenmore has a groomed park that’s extremely dissimilar to Seattle parks.

I didn’t waste too much time here, and went to the camera store.

Where I found a great little supplementary strap system, more low profile than the huge neck strap included with every camera.

I love this shop, but it’s definitely a shop that’s very Kenmore-y. That means:

A stupid-sad lack of bike parking. Getting inventive with locking is a very suburban pastime.

As my track bike has no bosses for water bottle cages, I had worked up a bit of a thirst. I trekked across the way to a Rite Aid, to find even less in the way of bike parking:

Kenmore: Don’t bike here if you want to leave your bike anywhere.

Luckily I can be quite resourceful with my silly-small mini-U.

A better shot of the hilarious locking options:

From this point I decided to grab a snickers and poweraide and power on. The trails were nice and the weather was pretty and I felt to be making some good memories and images.

Plus, a trailhead.

Maps with routes highlighted! And no stupid “you are here” stickers.


Onward to the Velodrome it is then.

The paths from Kenmore to the Sammamish River Trail are narrow, shady, and full of road racer types in lycra.

It doesn’t last long however before you turn onto the Sammamish River Trail, which quickly opens up to some sweeping turns and scenic areas, without ugly but functionally blissful underpasses and super convenient adjoining parking lots.

The scenery just gets better, as office parks and apartment buildings get modern, tasteful, and farther set back from the trail.

It’s getting cloudier, too… which makes for some dramatic pictures.

Some of the prairie-eske views are quite inspiring for that “get to redmond as fast as possible” jaunt down the trail. Or for shutter clicks.

Yes, I was making friends with the G11. For shots of halted machines and pipelines, it can actually make a great photo. Just don’t try to capture any action or genuine expression with it, and it will do some cool things.

Here’s what I wanted to get with the last picture, but actually accomplished through a few tweaks to the settings and some patience with the interface:

Much better. G11, you have pleased me… for now.

And a tighter close up for the bike geeks:

My bike propped against propane lines.

As the trip odometer passed 15, my but and knees were beginning to settle into the no-brakes track bike rhythm. It’s a cacophony of dull pains and slow discomforts.

While making the above picture, a passerby complimented my bike and then stopped to chat.

You say my bike is beautiful, but where my headset says S2, yours says King. And where my frame says Samba, yours says Dean.

Funny, this admirer had a bike of much higher component spec, much more usable build, and much more exotic materials. If you can’t see, it’s a Dean titanium mountain bike with a lockout front suspension, slick tires, anodized nipples, nice name brand bearing components, and a singlespeed tensioner kit. I’ve now had a carbon road bike rider(not just any, but a Look 595 rider) compliment this bike as well as a titanium mountain bike rider compliment this bike. I guess being pretty is enough sometimes, as my bike really can’t hold a candle to the expensive and exotic bikes I gape at while receiving compliments.

So tally one more for the awesome, chill people who will stop and talk about bikes. I continue on to Marymoor…

The only place you’ll find a bike rack on the north and east side of the lake!

I arrive! To find that others are not as respectful as I to the track:

Stay Classy, San DeSkiddo.

Really? Keep your fixie stuntin’ to parking lots and side streets, please.

So, time to set up the tripod…

The Magnum pack by Timbuk2. A handy camera case, and for the inventive/ill prepared, a tripod.

And make this:

Yeah, three laps of actually riding on the embankments. I had a blast, even though I didn’t go anywhere with anything resembling speed.

The ‘Drome is beautiful…

What a track. Desolate and beautiful.

The G11’s built in ND filter really flatters the sky on a day like this, too. I know these are all processed with the subtlety and tact of a sledge-wielding gameshow host, but I’m pretty happy with the detail and rendering of this little camera… even if it takes fifteen seconds for it to realize that, yes, I actually do want to take a picture… now… please. Wow. Shooting SLR’s for four years straight will do something to you. It will make point and shoots suck forever and always.

But my, do I love the sky over the velodrome.

And that dust speck to the left of the lamp? It’s a plane. Yeah. The full res shows it very nicely, but I’m not in the cropping mood. Let’s continue.

The airfield and cloud formations.

I leave Marymoore with the sun lowering and my spirits high.

This is where it all goes wrong.

The second you leave the park, it’s abysmal drab awful noisy hilly narrow chain link disaster surrounding and suffocating you.

It’s actually better looking in the picture than in real life.

Bellevue appears on the horizon as you travel along the disgustingly loud 520 path which mainly goes south.

At least I can rely on the sky to make a decent picture over this wasteland of internal combustion.

As I draw closer to the 405 juncture, things go from bad to worse. The 520 trail detours through a Microsoft campus that’s renovating and constructing new things. They have to close the path to do this, of course, because it’s their money that paid for it in the first place. After some stares from cars that make me feel as alien as a flying saucer, I rejoin the path below 148h st to find it terminates in a mess of overpasses and roads that are bikable, but go to hell-crap nowhere in the opposite direction from where I want to go. Instead, I travel south on 116th and hope to shit I can get closer to the big buildings, the I-90 bridge, and my route home.

Northrup way and some crazy ass streets take you over pictures like this one.

If I didn’t want to leave so badly, I could have made a good picture here.

Biking anywhere in Bellevue or Redmond means doing what is precisely what I am avoiding when I get on a bike: Pushing buttons and sitting on your ass.

Hurry up and wait.

If you can navigate without signage, you’ll find your way to more car-centered infrastructure that forces you to risk death or ride on sidewalks.

Where’s a trailhead when I need one?

You know when you’re in Bellevue when the overpasses for 405 closer resemble fancy hotel lobbies than beaten down bridges and train tracks.

Yes, that’s a lot of traffic. It only makes me love my bike more.

I finally start to feel like I’m under the skyscrapers again as I enter downtown Bellevue.

Aside from everything looking like it costs more money than I make in a year, I feel better just being in a city.

What I like about taking pictures of buildings is that literally anyone can do it. Point the camera at the sky just around sunset and it doesn’t matter who you are. The pictures you make are still pretty.

Seriously, even the worst silly crop of a building at sunset is a better picture than most anything I see on a daily basis.

Alright. I’m a consumer fiend and an American culture junkie. We all knew it was going to happen. I’ve been on the bike for 30 some miles. It’s time to go to the mall.

I like this picture for two reasons. One, my bike and I are only barely reflected in the window. Two, chihuly is the epitome of Lincoln Square artistic sensibilities. At some point? Sure, it was mindblowing. Now, it’s just a status symbol.

It’s Latte time.

My black leggings are totally acceptable mall fashion. Their comfortable sexiness is so totally relevant and chic. Plus, they are black and cover all my skin and so are the pinnacle of modesty. I also straighten my hair daily because I’m important. If it isn’t already obvious to you, people who make my sugar-ice coffee beverages: I’m too pretty to look patient.

I hate the mall. That crap I said about being a glutton for consumerism and American culture… yeah that was only half true. I love it but I hate it so, so deeply.

The cars go in the courtyard.

Maybe it’s because everyone here is so affluent and important they have to burn fuel to effortlessly bring themselves to this place of ludicrous indulgence and commerce. I’m going to spare you my feelings on personal trainers and liposuction because all of these people are probably fine, and I’m just angry because they didn’t spend a cent trying to make their dumb town accessible by bike.

Seriously, it’s horrible.

Biking through, to, from, or around Bellevue is a nightmare.

Driving there, however, is great.

Fashion sense comes with age and money. As do Cankles.

Alright. Latte sipped, banana bread devoured… let’s end this nightmare.

Ask Hostess at McCormick and Schmit’s for directions. Answer: “South.” Great. So helpful. Thanks. Your blonde hair makes me vomit. You don’t earn your money and you know it. I’m not bitter. I’m lying.

Friend from elementary school calls. He’s visiting my time zone. He’s in San Diego. I’m on a long bike ride. We exchange brief greetings and I tell him to call me later in the week.

As the steel and glass dance in fading sunlight to my back, I remember to notice how great greatness is.

I could really love Bellevue if it would stop wearing black leggings as a substitute for pants and realized that cosmetology is well and good if it’s a means and not an end. Who doesn’t want to be liked? I just wish it wasn’t a prerequisite. And in Bellevue, it seems that it is.

Turns out “South” really is all the direction I needed. I brave the two lanes of southbound cars, and several people who pass me leaving spaces measured in inches not feet, and eventually I see a sign… the first since Marymoor… telling me where cyclists can go if they want to get ANYWHERE.

Bicycle route to I-90.

I take the uphill side street(107, turns into 108), and before I can say “This is taking forever” I see it. The lake.

A glimmer of hope. Ugly picture, but I snapped it anyway. I was that excited to see hope of getting myself home. I had taken about four wrong turns before this point, and was tired of absolutely horrendous bicycle infrastructure.

The sun sets and I reach the shores of Lake Washington under I-90.

I see Mercer Island slumbering lazily, tethered by massive structures of metal and stone. Sunsets are beautiful in a dying kind of way, but I want home, and the G11’s low light capabilities leave me frustrated and upset. There’s plenty of light in the sky, but this small sensor is like a baby trying to grasp an airplane. Noisy and Inept.

Mercer, and the clouds in the setting sun.

I bike through the dark pathways of Mercer’s I-90 route. It takes me through beautiful parks neither I nor my camera can see.

I emerge to the bridge and fight the little canon tooth and nail to squeeze out this last cycling image:

Home on the Horizon

I’m not home yet but I am now in familiar territory. I have lights, so while I’ve biked 40-50 miles without brakes I still feel relatively safe.

Back west of the lake I climb through to MLK Jr blvd, racing a lightless roadie on his evening breakneck commute home. We exchange no words but I am glad to not be riding alone, though he eventually passes me as I spin out on a downhill. 44-17 gets me everywhere but not as fast as some.

I fight up Union, legs burning and dull, and dismount in front of a favorite hotspot.

The Elysian. The G11 is now useless without a tripod or full abandonment of color and clarity.

This is where I sadly decide to end my day by biking to my friend’s house on cap hill.

His house looks like this:

It’s a church.

So maybe the G11 can still pump out some lo-res magic. Or maybe it’s divine intervention.

Google later reveals that without my misdirections, laps around the drome, or general biking off the set course, my route totals 50.4 miles. With one fixed gear. No brakes. On a steel track bike that was made in Taiwan in 2006. I’m beat to hell but happy.

We drive in his car to the U district.

Civics… they eat gas, but not much of it.

I guess this makes this a ‘supported’ ride. The car did get me home… and to some bars. And to a quick stop where I purchased and drank 32 ounces of this crazy stuff:

I guess the G11 is just kind of hit and miss in low light. This file looks like absolute shit any larger.

We end up at Flowers and talk about the most ridiculous shit. Conversations get way too deep for someone as tired as I am. Why one camera review blogger is a douche. Why another is an egotistical hack. Who owns a photograph and who trips the shutter. Dumb stuff that smart guys like us know the answer two, but discuss to nausea anyway.

I don’t bike home. I get dropped off after a hamburger run.

I don’t go to sleep, I edit every single photo. More than you see here. Then I make that video I linked to that you skipped over because you didn’t read this whole thing, you only look at my pictures. Such is the power of images over text.

Sleep. It’s awesome. and it’s what I’m going to go do now. Thanks for tuning in.