Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of Year and Financial post 2014

Well, another year has passed and it is time to do a review. Overall, I think it went rather well.

As the end of the 2014 calender approaches, I sit and ponder over all that has happened in the past year. All I can say is that it has been an interesting year with lots of travel and I hope that 2015 is as interesting if not better.

lets take a look at the highlights of what went on:

  • Annual week long ski trip in February plus additional ski days at Vail after the trip was over.
  • I moved from CO to CA and changed jobs, 
  • My Mini placed 2nd in class in the annual all British car show, The Conclave. 
  • Two cross country road trips, I drove from Denver to San Diego then back to Denver, then back to San Diego. Each time having lots of fun in the National Parks and wilderness areas.
  • Moab, Arches, Canyonlands, Goblin, Grand Canyon twice, Bryce canyon 
  • Lots of beach time in SD.
  • A ten day backing trip in Canada to see Mt Assiniboine and Lake Louise. plus other sights

Looking forward to another ski trip in 2015 as well as going to Bozeman MT in August for a cousin's wedding. Maybe I can plan a road trip adventure to Yellowstone before or after the wedding.

I decided to take a peek a my total expenses for the year and was disappointed in what I found.
Overall, this year, I have spent roughly $18K. Way over budget considering I was unemployed from June through October. Where does it all go...

  • Almost $4k on vacations (flights, lodging, rental car, vacation food, etc...)
  • $2500 on Van repairs and upgrades (includes Insurance and registration renewal)
  • Fuel came in at $2700, not surprised by this though, the trips were lots of fun. 
  • Food was right at $2000, this is including going out to eat and liquor.
  • $1700 for health insurance
  • Hardware store expenses $1400, some rental house related expenses are here.
  • I spent $700 doing hardware upgrades to my laptop
  • $400 on bicycle repairs and acquiring a beautiful road bike (Thanks Devin)
  • I'm a bit disappointed that I spent $700 in cash purchases that I cant keep track of (could be fuel or food(eating out) or whatever)
  • Thanks to extremely generous family and friends, I've only paid $1500 in rent for the year.
  • And, as usual, the odds and ends category soaked up another $400.

I know that in 2015 I will be paying so much more for rent as I am going to get an apartment close to where I work (biking or walking distance is my requirement). If I can bike for the rest of next year and not use the van, it will save me approx $400 per month. I estimate that the rent for a studio is going to be in the 7-800 range. The van is doing well so I am not expecting to have to do much next year, same with the laptop. Ill try and cut back on the travel expenses, my solo trips are easy to control but the group ones I have no say other then not going on them.

That is it for now. I will update if I can think of anything else.

Hope everyone enjoys their New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Canadian Backpacking adventure (Gear post)

This post is way late but I just finished editing all the photos from this trip. I flew home for a Christmas through New Year vacation and have had lots of time to take care of time consuming projects.

**I started typing this up as a trip post but got sidetracked by gear so this will be just about the gear I have/used and a second post will be about the actual trip**

Way back in August I did a road trip to back Denver so that I could get my camping gear and fly to Calgary to meet up with my adventure friends. The plan was for a 5 day trip to Mt Assiniboine and then a bunch of day hikes afterwards.  The peak with the cloud coming off of it is Mt. Assiniboine.

I had to acquire some gear for the trip as I did not have a water purifier, camelbak, or a backing backpack.

I found a good water purifier (HikerPro) on craigslist. The owner was a former REI employee who was moving to Michigan in a Westy! Naturally we talked for hours about vans and traveling before I left with the goods. I put a new filter kit into it and it worked perfectly throughout the trip.
Found this photo online, mine is similar

I purchased the camelbak new from REI. The bag has special quick release fittings on the drinking end which allowed me to tie the water purifier directly into the drinking hose without having to take the pack out of the backpack to refill. Super handy while hiking but I had to be extremely careful about not contaminating the clean hose with the dirty water hose. I did carry some small bleach packets with me to purify the system just in-case. After doing the hike, I am not sure why I have never purchased one of these before. They are awesome and I've been using it while riding my bike or even during the long road trips. I keep the backpack hanging from the passenger seat and the drinking hose hanging out of the side for quick access while driving.

The backpack I picked up was a nice 2 year old Deuter AirContact 65L (similar specs but older model) pack off of craigslist. I got it at a good price because the pack had spent a year traveling on the back of the first owner while in the Dominican Republic. Needless to say, it already had some scuffs and battle damage. I happily did a deep cleaning and then patched up the pack and reapplied waterproofing to bring the pack back up to working condition. I was quite pleased by the pack during the hike and the best part was not having to worry about keeping it clean and pristine like I would have if I had picked up a new one. The one accessory I would like to have is a rain cover. I used some trash bags while on the hike but they look really bad and are not very durable.  The only modification to the pack that I would like to do is to convert the top flap storage pocket into a removable day pack for side hikes.

Some notes about the rest of the gear :
I really like my sleeping pad and my sleeping bag, both work really well. I hardly noticed the cold temperatures and slept soundly throughout the whole trip. Other members of the group had trouble sleeping due to poor insulation or pads that were too thin. At times, I had half of my bag unzipped to let out heat while others were sealed in their bags wearing all possible warm articles of clothing. I did have to wear my signature red merino wool adventure hat at night to keep my head warm. For those who dont know what pad I have, I have the Exped Downmat in an extra long size. This mat has a micro-down insulation layer giving it an R value of 8. It weighs in at 1.2lbs of awesomeness.

My sleeping bag is a 1970-80s era REI rectangular non-mummy down sleeping bag. It has approx 4-5" of lofted down feathers, which I picked up off of Ebay for 20 bucks several years ago. I had to do a deep cleaning and patch up a couple of small burn holes but otherwise it was in good shape for its age. The only issue I have with my sleep gear is that it is down based and I can not let it get wet as it loses it's insulation properties very quickly.
I also have an inflatable ergonomic pillow which I am not so thrilled about but it is better then a pile of clothing.

I need to get a new pair of closed toe hiking sandals, the ones I have do not have any more tread and are coming apart. However, having said that, they worked extremely well during this trip. I did bring a pair of socks in-case of cold weather. I didn't have to worry about walking through a creek or stream or lake shoreline, I simply did so and they were dried out shortly afterwards.They are much lighter then traditional hiking boots and breath really well. The only time I would use hiking boots are when I have to cross snow fields or along very loose/rocky terrain. The best reason to wear hiking sandals is that you get a cool suntan pattern on your feet.

I really do not like my convertible pants, they are a terrible color green, look like parachute pants with cargo pockets attached, and have scratchy seams that chafe while hiking.  I would like to find something with less pockets, that look like normal pants, are a neutral grey or brown or beige color, slim fit, and have leg sections that are removable without taking your shoes off.
yes, I am hiking in sandals with black socks on.

The merino wool tshirts I have are nice but are developing holes. I would like to get a few more, perhaps in a looser size, as they tend to shrink over time. Other then Rayon, there aren't many materials that can match the awesomeness of merino wool. Quick drying and great thermal control properties. I also had my hand knitted red merino wool adventure hat.

I wish my camera gear didn't weigh so much but so far I have not found a suitable lightweight replacement. Most of the weight is in the glass lens.

Other gear was normal, had a rain jacket and a mosquito head net. Since this was a group trip, I didn't have to carry a tent or stove which was nice. The group adjusted our pack weights by shifting around group food to lighten up some of the heavier packs. I ended up carrying a lot of the group food since my pack was lite. Overall we were at 20-25% of our body weight in pack weight. I think mine ended up close to 40lbs with water.

Ill post up the trip details in another post. Hopefully sometime this week as I am kinda stuck inside due to a winter storm with sub zero temperatures.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Feeling Wanderlusty again

Life is good right now.
I have a job that I enjoy doing in a climate region that is very suitable and have very little to worry about, but tonight, I am feeling rather Wanderlusty (yes I just made up this word but it works). I am not sure what it is that causes it but I just want to get into my van and drive. No idea where though. Why is my brain broken?

Do I reach a level of physical detachment with the surrounding environment that is so high that I suddenly feel the need to become one with nature?

Or perhaps I get comfortable with my life choices and then I see something that reminds me of how it feels to be free which exposes how unfree I am. Of how dependent I really am.

Perhaps I get a small reminder of how dangerous the physical trappings of modern life really are and it freaks me out.

How do people spend their entire life working? Why do I think that my life has to be super-amazing-awesome in order for it to be time well spent? Do I really enjoy traveling or is it a social idea that I have bought into?

Why do I take so many pictures on my trips? Do I do it because I like to or because everyone else does? Is it to prove that my life isn't boring and that my decisions are justified?

What is it that I am bothered by? Is it the monotony of the working life? or is it the feeling of being separated from the surrounding social structure?

Am I more afraid of spending my whole life searching for answers or becoming a model of the american way of life?

I hate this...