Outdoor Retailer Bestuvs

Imagine you’re at a mall on the weekend before Christmas and all the crowds around you are fit, driven, and over-caffeinated. That’s pretty much the scene at the Outdoor Retailer at the Salt Palace convention center. Thousands of vendors and tens of thousands of buyers, managers, and working media types (like me) are meeting. It’s easy to be overwhelmed.

Among the offerings, there are a lot of technical pieces (specialized climbing rope, specialized paddle boards, specialized watches, specialized phone chargers, etc., etc.) bright, snappy clothing, and the latest on how to bring domesticity into the back country. We managed to whittle through the morass and find some excellent (and perhaps overlooked) products:

Good to Go – this Maine-based company, led by an accomplished and adventurous chef, takes the same ol’, same ol’ out of camp meals.

Pull Start Fire – taking the wishing and finger-crossing out of campfires, even in the rain.

Rite in the Rain – notebooks and writing implements that work, even in the rain.

Duckworth Wool – wool from Montana, crafted into fabulous clothing in North and South Carolina. We’re verrryy keen on this new company. Review of their Vapor t-shirt coming soon.

Benchmade – we found some female-friendly knives from this Oregon company. Review coming soon.

Green Goo – natural salves from this women-owned Colorado company. We love their Travel Packs, which come with lip balm, first aid and pain relief salves, and bug spray.

Adventure Medical – We love their Me and My Dog first aid kits. An essential for your barn, truck, or camper.

Bullfrog – horse riders sweat, too! We dig their sweat-resistant, sunscreen/bug repellant combination lotion.

And it was fun to visit with Bullfrog’s celebrity kayaker Nick Troutman, too. Read more at UtahOutsider. 

Klean Kanteen – this company sets the bar for doing the right thing in a complicated market. It’s a B Corporation and is especially innovative and transparent. “We adhere to the triple bottom line: People, Planet, then Profit,” said one representative at the OR. Aside from that, we love their new colors and kits. Check out there starter Coffee Kit here. 

Stanley – the company’s Switchback mug gets the prize for no-spill, no-drip To Go mug. It’s also pretty easy to clean between uses.

OsanaBar – a new, awesome-smelling, mosquito repellent soap that works! The company also has an excellent charitable arm. It supplies soap to communities threatened by malaria, the sometimes deadly disease carried by mosquitos.

LL Bean – the Maine company continues to introduce fun, tough, not-your-gramma’s clothing. The colors and fabrics are perfect for us horse riders. We love their Back Cove Heathered tee, their Luna jacket, and their Whisper Lodge flannel. 

Whisper Lodge flannel shirt from LL Bean

Trashy Insight

Trash is a window to our world. It can tell you way more than a solicited survey or government census. Read UtahOutsider’s Trail Trash post.

Along Highway 160

Along Highway 160

Our neighborhood regularly picks up trash along Highway 160, an officially designated scenic highway and part of “America’s Most Beautiful Drive.”

What are litterers’ lives like?

I don’t know. But I know what they drink:



Budweiser & Clamato Chelada

Bud Light Lime

Bud Light




Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 12.40.20 PMCoors Light


Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor (Miller Brewing)

Modelo Especial

Icehouse beer, by Miller


Corona Extra

Prost Pils Pale German Style Lager

Fosters 24 ounces

Miller Lite, 24 ounces

Hamm’s Beer, 24 ounces

Non-alcoholic drinks:

Frappuccino by Starbucks

Monster Energy

Monster Energy Java


Nestle water

Sam’s (Walmart) cola

Lipton’s Diet Green Tea Citrus Lemonade

Dairy Pure whole milk

Simply Lemonade

Simply Orange Juice

Exyience Blue Pomegranate energy drink



Planters Whole Cashews

Munchies Flamin’ Hot (I had to look up the ingredients because it was unclear what food it actually was: corn meal, vegetable oil, MSG, artificial flavor, and various chemicals.)

Hostess Mini Donettes, chocolate frosted


Pall Mall




Arizona driver’s license and credit cards belonging to a Pamela K. White.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore receipt for couch

Instructions for kid’s bike assembly

Letter from the Phi Theta Kappa honor society

Credit card solicitation letters

Wal-mart prescription bottle

401K statements showing $10,047 of investments




A rubber ball

Read UtahOutsider’s Trail Trash post.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

IMG_1835They say Zen mentality gives you the ability to be at home anywhere. Over the course of three weeks and six thousand miles, home was anywhere with a truck camper and three dogs.

That was the set-up as I traveled to Maine and back, with two trips to Utah added on. Compared to trips past (in total, I’ve crossed America’s bulk at least 20 times), fewer things were broken or went missing. I felt happier and calmer. Was this the result of trying to be more “in the moment”? More “Zen”? Roadtrip maturity? I can hear my sons saying, Whatever, Mom.

Some highlights and lowlights:

Rivers crossed:

Arkansas, Rio Grande, Miami, Missouri, Mississippi, Catherine on Hudson, among others.

An overturned livestock trailer just east of Wolf Creek Pass along Highway 160. Scores of emergency vehicles. Six dead cows IMG_1966hauled out of the wreck and deposited on the shoulder. Three more standing placidly next to them with what I deduce to be life-ending injuries. The scene makes me wish more people were vegetarian.

But then, I like leather, so who am I?

In Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, I share a gas pump with an elderly man in overalls. He’s filling up an old tractor, perched on a flatbed trailer. I ask him how old it is. “Not as old as me, but older than you,” he says with a smile. 1954, he guesses. Pretty good guess.

In Genoa, Colorado, a dilapidated tower structure announces the seriously sketchy proclamation: “See Six States!” (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, South Dakota, and New Mexico).

A billboard near Indianapolis. “We’re into S and N” (spay and neuter).

A bigger billboard announced “Size Matters”

Ashland, Ohio – “World headquarters of nice people”

IMG_1870Dogs now sit up and whine whenever they hear the blinker or deceleration. They are similarly tipped off by the undoing of seatbelt or turning off of radio.

A tiny, old-time windmill is dwarfed by a dozen wind turbines on a stretch of Kansas plain. A lone daisy in a stand of sunflowers.

As we move away from working with land and animals, our ability to de-stress and be in the moment wanes, too. ‘Multi-tasking’ was not a word 50 years ago. Nor was ‘Internet,’ ‘cruise control,’ ‘teleconference.’ We move away from farm and the outdoors, then gravitate back as our bodies and minds suffer. It’s like the Slow Food movement, you know? There would be no Slow Food without Fast Food.

Rest stop weirdness: I stop for the night at a quiet, isolated rest stop near Lake Erie. The dogs and I watch three young guys with hoodies head into the woods. I’m thinking, ‘okay, they are going into the woods to have a drink and a toke and then they will get back on the road.’ They return 30 minutes later and we watch as they lift up a bulkhead of sorts and step down underground and disappear. At which point, I’m thinking, ‘shit, these hoodlums are going to emerge after midnight and attack me.’


Traveling companion, David Foster Wallace, on audio.

I mosey over to the bulkhead to investigate. One of them flips up the hatch. I say, ‘hey, whatcha doing?’ They are public works employees trying to figure out why the septic pump has failed. (Thank you, Lordy.)

All the road kill. I think my fellow drivers disassociate road kill from real live animals (with every day lives and families) as much as we disassociate animals from packaged meat. Jeans from a cotton plant. Paper from a tree in a forest. Did I mention leather?

Do dogs understand “road trip”? Or is it: Hang out in truck for another day. Run. Drink. Eat. Sleep. See humans we recall from ages ago. Get back in truck.

Top-rated, little-known dog-friendly pit stops (while still logging 600+ miles per day):

  • Closed weigh stations
  • Shuttered motels
  • Ranch exits
  • National forest trailheads or turn offs.

Enjoying roadside open space

Out west, it’s not unusual to have a gravel road start at the end of the exit ramp. But Interstate 70’s Exit 311 ramp in Kansas is itself gravel. The dogs and I walked for 30 minutes on the stretch of road, just off the highway here. No leashes needed. No other vehicle seen.

The problem with Mancos is that when you travel, you see how undesirable other places are and how unhappy, unfit, unhealthy other people appear. Elsewhere, people seem more hip and more cynical. In Mancos, you can be earnest and un-ironic and no one will smirk. Not so, elsewhere.

It doesn’t help that I’m listening to David Foster Wallace’s essays on the Maine Lobster Festival and on the hell of weeklong cruise.  No one disses Americans better than DFW. He calls them, “the only known species of bovine carnivore.”

In line with this star of smart snark, fellow travelers appear to me:

Pear- and apple-shaped



Too heavy for their own shoes

Drive-thru obsessives

Wolf Creek Pass

Wolf Creek Pass

Knowingly ignorant

I mean really, folks: How and why does one stop at a rest stop, get out of the car, and then sit some more?

Listening to Salman Rushdie’s interview with Christopher Hitchens. They discuss fun stuff and serious stuff, such as the ideology of doubt and the flawed logic of “It must be God because if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here to say it must be God.” Watch it here.

A big sign on a Colorado state highway, in front of a ranch. “Not 4 Sale”

On Wolf Creek Pass there are still snowmobilers and snow parked along the side of Highway 160. There are not one, but two runaway truck ramps. And sure enough, in mid-May, I head over the pass in wind and snow.

Interstate 70 sunrise, in Kansas

Interstate 70 sunrise, in Kansas

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