Feb 20, 2012

A backpack gets mouthy... Err, wordy.

Over the past couple of months I have attempted, over and over again, to revive my poor blog.  These attempts have generally been unsuccessful.  And over and over again I find myself typing out a paragraph about all these grand excuses I have for not being more successful in this pursuit.  So once again I look to revive that which has become stagnant.  But this time I intend to take a different route. There will be no attempt to catch everyone up.  There will be no complaining generally saying, “Woe is me.”  I’m simply going to start from right now, and continue on as if I had never lapsed.  For those of you who have read my sad attempts at revival, hopefully I can recapture your following through perseverance and following though on my goals.  For those that are new, I’ll simply warn you:  I can ramble on forever about nothing in general, and I firmly believe the world that needs to know about it (why else would I publish it to the Internet??).

Consider yourself warned.

China is only 12 days away and its time to get serious.  How serious, you may ask? I’ll tell you: I ordered a new backpack. 

Yeah, it’s that serious.  There are some people who are probably thinking, how serious can the purchase of a backpack actually be?  If you are me (which you are not, otherwise you wouldn’t be asking that question, duh) it’s a serious subject.

First, we look at my current pack.  It’s a North Pak.  It’s a Big 5 special.  There is no information anywhere on volume, and it’s a standard issue backpack. It has pockets galore, which is nice.  It also has a laptop sleeve, padded and completely separate from the main compartment.  Other than that it’s nothing special, but it has served me well. I believe I’ve had it for about 4 years (but that’s really just a guess).  I was going to put a generic picture of said backpack, but sadly, it’s so generic I couldn’t even find a picture of it on the web.  So I was forced to take a picture with my phone camera. 

It’s been a good pack, but it’s not really comfortable for wearing over long periods of time, or for hiking in general.  And so my search began as I looked for a voluminous backpack, but not too big.  It needs to be comfortable for long day hikes (like for example, if one were going to find himself walking all over Beijing, China, right?) and so I thought a waist strap would be a good idea.  I’m not looking for an internal frame pack, like one would wear backpacking.  I would prefer a laptop sleeve, and lots of pockets. 

With my criteria set I the net, checking some of the usual haunts. Amazon was my first stop. But sometimes the amount of options available makes it hard to focus at the task at hand, and typically the good choices can be lost in the mix.  So I went to Eddie Bauer.  I know what some are thinking. Eddie Bauer?  Isn’t that clothing for yuppies?  And just what is a yuppie?  I’ll leave that definition for a later time.  But, it should suffice to say the Microsoft Word Dictionary recognizes yuppie as a word spelled correctly, but I think I digress.

The worst part of this whole thing: Consumer reviews.  They are like crack for me.  I can’t buy anything that doesn’t come from Safeway or the gas station without actually looking online for what others have had to say about it. And these things must be taken grain of salt.  Not everyone has the same ideas as to what makes a product a GOOD product.  So even a negative review I can often discount because the reviewer is stupid and bases the comfort of, say a hotel room, on the performance of the pool filter.  Make sense?  And so I read, and I researched, and I read…. And I found it, at Eddie Bauer: the Boundary Pack.  

With nearly 1,800 cubic inches in volume, it’s big enough.  It’s got the required laptop sleeve, as well as multiple pockets.  The waist strap is large and reportedly comfortable, and they stow away when not in use.  Over all, the general consensus is it’s a good pack, roomy and comfortable.  And so it’s purchased.  And now I wait.  Tonight, after a quick trip to the gym, I’ll be breaking out the suitcase and beginning the process of starting to get things packed.  Two weeks early.  I’ll be prepared. I’ll be organized.  I hopefully won’t forget too many things.

I suppose I could also talk about what exactly is wrong with me, and why buying something as mundane as a backpack has turned into a nearly two week process.  I could talk about the obsession I have with consumer reviews.  I could also talk about the fact this post, which is about nothing more than the purchase of a backpack, has a word count of 850.

I warned you, I can ramble on a bit.

Feb 3, 2012

Dive Log 1: Part 1

As of late, I have gotten the SCUBA bug.  I've had this bug before, but this is a little different.  First, I lack a regular dive buddy.  Iver is my best bet, but his life doesn't allow for a lot of diving all together.  Second, I still lack some of the regular equipment most divers have.  For example, I've been renting a wetsuit for the last five years (it really is time for that wetsuit I've been eyeing for a while).

Its coming up on good diving weather, and I'm already looking to join up with a Dive Club in Mendocino in April.  But, as it stands right now, I'm kind of in a holding pattern until after the China trip.

In the meantime, however, I'm looking to create a little something I should have done a long time ago:  A Dive Log.  It seems every diver should have a dive log.  And its something I have never done.  I'm not really sure why...  Lazy, most likely.  So now, a few years later, I'm looking to create it.....

Lets go back to Summer, 2006.....

Albion.  Summer.  I'm down at Albion with D and the Bear, camping with Janine and Iver. This trip is mainly an abalone harvest.  However, SCUBA is something Iver and his brother Eric, and cousin Mike like to do, and he wants to introduce me to the sport.

Apprehension is a good word to describe how I felt about this.  What did I really know about diving?  Its a sport.  People do it.  You could die.  That about sums up my knowledge of the sport at the time.  But what the heck, I'll try nearly anything once (except skydiving, I won't do that. Ever.).

So we made our way to Dark Gulch on a pleasant August morning.  Now, for anyone who is familiar with this area, its a fairly protected cove, south of Mendocino, north of Albion.  The Heritage House Inn overlooks the cove on the north side.  To get to Dark Gulch, one must take a small path between the Heritage House property and some private property.  Then one must hike down a rickety set of wooden stairs.  Then one must walk across an even ricketier bridge that crosses a small stream.  Then One must traverse the rocky bedding that leads to the sandy beach.

I should point out this is not particularly tough unless you are carrying a lead weight belt, fins, BC, mask and snorkel, air tank, and you are wrapped in a ridiculous amount of neoprene. Then this little walk becomes a trecherous journey.  By the time we got to the beach, I was dripping in sweat and my feet were killing me (I was wearing a pretty skimpy pair of dive boots at the time).

Once we reached the beach, it was time for a shakedown on dive equipment.  My "instructor" is a medical professional whom I honestly was trusting with my life, and would do so at any given time.  Everyone there were accomplished divers, and I felt like I was in good hands.

So we talked about gear.  First and foremost, the BC, one of the most important parts of a diver's arsenal of gear.  Its a life saver, literally, and nearly everything attaches to it.  Then the air tank, and connected regulator and octopus.  Mask, snorkel, fins.  It all sounds so simple when you break it down like this.  In reality, though, its not. We could talk about the bends.  We could talk about air embolisms. But who wants to know about that right now?  I did.  The bends has to do with nitrogen building up in the blood stream, then expanding as pressure decreases, and causing severe pain and in some cases, even death.  Air embolisms are when your lungs explode due to the air in your lungs expanding too fast.  In this case, death is almost certain.  However, Iver told me these things wouldn't be problem as long as I remained calm and followed his lead.

OK, lets go.  

I donned my gear for the first time, and clumsily made my way into the Pacific Ocean. On my first dive I was a little spoiled.  It was a sunny day, the surf was minimal, and entry into the water was as easy as could be. We swam out to where the depth was about 20-25 feet down.  I was instructed to put in my regulator and simply lay face down in the water and get a feel for breathing with the regulator in.  What a strange feeling.  All my life I was accustomed to holding my breath under water.  Here, holding your breath equates to an explosion of the lungs.  So you breathe.  You breathe normally. I lay there on the surface for a couple of minutes, simply looking down and breathing.

The water was so clear.  I could see straight to the bottom. I could see the kelp stalks rooted to the rocky ocean floor. I could see the various kinds of algae growing on the rocks themselves.  I could see abalone attached to rocks all over the place.  I could see god rays filtering through the water, alighting on the ocean floor.  It was an amazing sight, one I think I'll never forget.

After this initial few minutes of getting used to the idea of breathing under water, it was time to let the air out of our BCs and descend.  This was it.  The moment of truth.  Descending, according to Iver, was the easy part. Simply let the air out of your vest and sink.  The only think to do was pop your ears often as pressure increases.  Easy enough.  And so we sank.

And my perception of this place we call Planet Earth changed forever.
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